Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [press release] the Philippine government to act to bring the killers of three local journalists to justice and stop further violence. On July 30 unknown assailants shot and killed Richard Kho, 47, and Bonifacio Loreto Jr., 59, both columnists for the weekly tabloid Aksyon Ngayon, in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Two days later, on August 1, unidentified gunmen killed a freelance photojournalist, Mario Sy, 53, in the southern city of General Santos. Police have not made any arrests in the killings. HRW said:
The latest killings and threats against journalists underscore the precarious state of media freedom in the Philippines and the need for the government to respond. Unless the government brings people who attack journalists to justice, these killings are not going to stop. The Philippines has a reputation for having one of the freest media freedom environments in Asia, but that reputation disappears bit-by-bit with every killing of a journalist.HRW further noted that "while the killers and motives are unknown, these and past unresolved attacks on journalists have a chilling effect on media freedom in the country."
Journalism has long been a high-risk profession in the Philippines. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website], some 73 journalists have been murdered in the Philippines since 1992, and local media groups put the number considerably higher. The Philippines consistently ranks as among the top three in the organization's list of "deadliest countries" for journalists. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) [advocacy website] said that the three recent killings brought the number of journalists killed in the country under the Aquino [official website] administration to 18. Journalists, particularly outside the major cities, regularly report threats and harassment. The union said that most of the journalists killed had received death threats. The Aquino administration has announced reforms to the criminal justice system that could result in more effective criminal investigations, but has not fully implemented them.