UNESCO condemns killing of Oriental Mindoro broadcaster Cris Bundoquin

UNESCO condemns killing of Oriental Mindoro broadcaster Cris Bundoquin
This handout photo taken on May 31, 2023 and received from Oriental Mindoro Provincial Police Public Information Office shows police investigators searching for evidence after radio broadcaster Cresenciano Bunduquin was shot dead outside his home by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro province, south of Manila.
Handout / Oriental Mindoro Provincial Police Public Information Office / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — International condemnation for the killing of Oriental Mindoro broadcaster Cresenciano "Cris" Bundoquin last Wednesday continues to mount as UNESCO called the murder part of a "concerning trend" for freedom of expression.

Bundoquin — 'Bunduquin' in some reports and statements but 'Bundoquin' on his Facebook account and in other media — a Calapan City-based broadcaster who hosted shows on local radio DWXR 101.7 FM and online was shot dead by two gunmen on a motorcycle before dawn on May 31. UNESCO said he had also been reporting on local environment issues and had been receiving death threats related to his work.

"I condemn the killing of Cresenciano Bunduquin and urge the authorities to pursue those responsible and ensure they are brought to justice. The continued targeting of journalists reporting on environmental issues represents a particularly concerning trend for freedom of expression," UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement released Saturday.

UNESCO, which commemorates World Press Freedom Day on May 3 each year, has been campaigning for journalist safety and against impunity in attacks on the media in its advocacy for freedom of the press and of expression.

In a statement on his Facebook page on Saturday, Paul Gutierrez — executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security — is quoted as telling police "not be 'pressured' by criticisms and other baseless opinion by some groups, especially the perennial government critics here and abroad, by rushing the filing of the case and declaring it as 'solved' only to suffer a defeat during the trial proper."

He is also quoted as saying the killing may have been because of a personal grudge or that the gunmen may "have been induced to shoot Bundoquin by other personalities in the province."

Bundoquin is the third journalist killed during the Marcos Jr. administration, which has enjoyed better relations with the press than the previous Duterte administration. 

READ: Radio broadcaster killed in Oriental Mindoro

'Unacceptable violation'

The International Federation of Journalists called the murder "an unacceptable violation to press freedom and freedom of expression" in a separate statement condeming the killing.

"Rural and regional journalists in the Philippines must be able to report safely and securely without facing disproportionate violence, intimidation and threats," IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said.

Press freedom organizations Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued similar statements last Wednesday, with Daniel Bastard of the RSF Asia-Pacific desk saying "everything indicates that Cris Bunduquin was murdered in reprisal for his journalistic comments."

The embassies of Canada and the Netherlands — co-chairs of the Media Freedom Coalition in the Philippines — expressed "grave concern" over the killing.

"Media freedom is an integral element of democracy. To safeguard it, it is essential that journalists can execute their work without fearing for their lives and safety," the embassies said in a joint statement as they called for an urgent investigation and prosecution of those behind the attack.

Police have formed a Special Investigation Task Group to work on the case, with the Calapan City Police Office getting support from regional units of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Forensic Group and Intelligence Group.

The Philippine National Police has also assured journalists that government "focal persons" will help ensure their safety and security.

The regional MIMAROPA PNP Press Corps said that the killing of its former member "shows that journalism remains a dangerous profession in the country", adding it showed that authorities have failed to protect journalists as well as ordinary citizens from harm."

Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement last Wednesday that "until the Philippine government shows it is serious about ending impunity in media murders, such killings will likely continue."

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