The head of the United Nations (UN) agency tasked with defending press freedom voiced grave concern over the killing of at least five Filipino journalists in the past months and urged authorities to bring the perpetrators of the crime to the bar of justice.
Irina Bokova, the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), said in a statement that she condemned the killing of Vergel Bico, Fernando Solijon, Richard Kho, Bonifacio Loreto and Mario Sy.
Sy, a freelance photo contributor to Sapol News Bulletin newspaper, was shot on August 1 by an unidentified man who entered his house in South Cotabato.
The killing came two days after the double murder of Loreto and Kho, columnists for a weekly tabloid newspaper, Aksyon Ngayon.
“It is very alarming to see three journalists killed in the space of two days and I urge the authorities to do all in their power to bring the culprits of these crimes to justice,” she said.
Bico, the newspaper editor of the weekly Kalahi newspaper in Calapan, Mindoro, was shot twice in the head on September 4. He was known for writing about the illegal gambling activities there.
On the other hand, Solijon, a hard-hitting radio commentator of dxLS Love Radio in Iligan City in northern Mindanao, was shot eight times by two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle on August 29.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Solijon had criticized local politicians on his program and linked a village chief to illegal drugs.
“These two killings [Bico and Solijon] bring to five the number of Philippine journalists assassinated since July. I urge the authorities to take action to bring the culprits of these crimes to justice,” Bokova said.
On July 30, newspaper columnists Kho and Loreto were shot and killed by motorcycle-riding assailants in Quezon City.
The Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) is investigating the circumstances behind the murders to determine if they were related to the victims’ work as journalists.
At least 73 Philippine journalists have been killed in direct connection to their work since 1992, making the Philippines the second deadliest country in the world for the press, according to a research by the committee.
At least 55 journalist murders in the past decade are unresolved, the same report added.
The Philippines ranks third on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.
“How many more journalists must be killed before President Benigno Aquino 3rd makes a genuine commitment to ending the cycle of impunity in media murders in the Philippines?” Shawn Crispin, CPJ senior Southeast Asia representative, asked.