Unabated killings of journalists slammed

Manila: Journalists on Friday held a demonstration in suburban Quezon City to portray the plight of press freedom in the country after a Davao del Norte-based journalist was shot and killed on Thursday.

Braving intermittent rain, members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines held a candlelight vigil in memory of Dennis Wilfredo Denora who was shot by a lone gunman on Thursday in the village of New Pandan, Panabo City.

Denora, 67-year-old journalist/publisher of the provincial weekly newspaper ‘Trends and Time’, was shot dead by unidentified killers near the market of Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

He was the 11th journalist killed in the less than two years since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in July 2016, according to lawyer Jocelyn Clemente, national president of the NUJP.

“While there is still no official word on the possible motive for his murder, it was likely related to his work as a journalist. Denora’s colleagues in the province acknowledge that he was ‘fearless’ in his commentaries in broadcast and print,” Clemente said.

Filipino journalists have been performing their duties despite low pay and an increasingly hostile environment.

“This latest media killing belies Malacañang’s (the Presidential Palace) claim that the Philippines has improved its position among the deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist, a fact international press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres already established early on when it reported that we had slipped six notches — from 127th to 133rd of 180 countries ranked — in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index,” said Clemente.

A government body directed Duterte to investigate and solve the killing of journalists, while the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said a special group with policemen as members will look into the killings.

“Like in previous cases, whether related to work or not, it is our official policy to initially treat any violent incident involving media workers as “work related,” PTFoMS Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said in a Facebook post.

The killing of Denora followed the death of Edmund Sestoso on May 1, following an April 30 ambush in the village of Daro in Dumaguete City in Central Philippines.

Just like journalists, priests are also performing their work in dangerous environment. Last Wednesday, a Catholic priest narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after a man fired shots at his car in Calamba City on Wednesday.

Father Rey Urmeneta of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calamba was travelling with his secretary when his vehicle was attacked at 9am, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said.

In April, Fr. Mark Ventura of the Archdiocese of Tuguegaraio was shot dead shortly after celebrating Sunday Mass in Gattaran town, Cagayan, while on Dec. 4, Fr. Marcelito Paez of the San Jose diocese was also shot and killed by unidentified men in Jaen, Nueva Ecija province.