Thursday, May 31, 2007

IFEX condemns killing; death threats vs Filipino journalists

Politics has again ruled its ugly head on the just concluded Philippine elections by threatening journalists who were assigned to cover the local election in Mindanao, with bodily harm. The threats were coursed through the text messages sent to the journalists' cellphones. But one of them was not lucky enough to evade the bullet that felled his life.

Dodie Nunez, who did some freelancing work for the Cavite-based tabloid "Katapat", was on his way home from work on May 21 when the mini-bus he was riding was ambushed by at least three unidentified armed men on a motorbike, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and local media reported. According to media reports the victim was shot dead, along with another passenger, who was wounded during the incident. The Canada-based International Freedom of Expression (IFEX) has condemned the killing and threats against the Filipino journalists.

The tabloid "Katapat" is owned by Archie Gadang, who run for provincial governor but lost to Ireneo Maliksi, who filed a libel suit against Gadang for publishing corruption anomalies against the governor. It was not immediately known if the suspects were hired by a politician to kill the photojournalist. Police probers are still conducting investigations on the circumstance surrounding the criminal act perpetrated against a media practitioner.

Those who received the death threats are ANC anchor Ricky Carandang and Noel Alamar, both working as reporters for the ABS-CBN network, a sister company of the TFC Channel worldwide. Another TV station that got the death threats is GMA-7. According to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), these media practitioners were covering the recent elections in Lanao del Norte in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, when they stumbled on some election anomalies.

It was learned from the ABS-CBN TV Patrol World that both journalists were on the fields interviewing voters if they were allowed to vote or not. But some of the voters in Lanao del Norte said that they were not able to cast their votes but their names have appeared in the election returns. Consequently, this had resulted to 12-0 victory in favor of the Team Unity of the present administration.

The CMFR added that the Commission on Elections had stopped the ABS-CBN and GMA-7 from conducting media counts because they were unauthorized to do such. Besides, they only confused the people, the CMFR cited the Comelec as saying.

International observers have expressed doubts over the conduct of the recent elections in the Philippines, citing a lot of problems emanating from the mishandling of some election paraphernalias.

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