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Catch mediamen’s killers, Duterte urged

MANILA, Philippines - A human rights group is egging the Duterte administration to deliver on its promises to apprehend those responsible for the recent killings of journalists.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it is not just suspected drug users and dealers now at risk of targeted killing in the Philippines.

The group has decried the murders last week of two radio journalists and the attack on a newspaper columnist last Thursday.

On Aug. 6, two assailants on a motorcycle shot Rudy Alicaway dead while he was on his way home in Molave, Zamboanga del Sur.

The police said they don’t know yet the motive behind the killing of Alicaway, 46, a radio host on local radio station dxPD. He was also a local councilman.

The following day, two gunmen killed Leodoro Diaz, 60, in President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat.

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Diaz, a long-time columnist for a local weekly and reporter for Radio Mindanao Network, told his colleagues earlier that day he was going to file a report on illegal drugs.

It is still unclear, though, whether his reporting was the motive behind his killing.

On Aug. 10, a gunman in Batangas City shot in the back Crisenciano Ibon, 65, a columnist for the tabloid Police Files Tonight, and seriously wounded his driver.

Ibon survived the attack, which the police speculate may have been in retaliation for his columns criticizing illegal gambling.

The deaths of Alicaway and Diaz brought to four the number of journalists killed since Duterte took office in June 2016. Journalist Larry Que was killed last Dec. 19 and Joaquin Briones last March 13.

Last Oct. 11, Duterte signed an administrative order creating a task force on media killings. Since then, there have been little evidence that the task force has actively pursued attacks on journalists.

In Que’s case, his widow filed a criminal complaint against the provincial governor, a policeman and three others for his death.

Since 1986, some 177 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Philippines, making the country one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, according to the Committee to Project Journalists.

“Previous administrations launched similar task forces on media killings, but all failed to end impunity for those deaths. Despite its assurances that journalists are ‘safer’ now, Duterte’s task force will suffer the same fate so long as the administration actively endorses extrajudicial killings. Without accountability for killings of journalists, media freedom in the Philippines will remain under threat,” HRW-Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said.

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