Gunmen Critically Injure Philippine Radio Journalist

Jeoffrey Maitem and Nonoy Espina
Cotabato, Philippines
191030-PH-journalist-620.jpg Students in northern Baguio City, Philippines, participate in a nationwide protest for press freedom, Feb. 23, 2018.
Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews

A radio broadcaster in the southern Philippines was in critical condition Wednesday after being shot five times in the latest attack on journalists in the country, according to the official heading the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.

Benjie Caballero, station manager of Radyo ni Juan network, was shot outside his home in the town of Tacurong by two gunmen on a motorcycle, according to officials and journalists.

Joel Egco, executive director of the presidential task force, a government authority, condemned what he called a “cowardly attempt” to kill Caballero.

“Let us pray for Benjie’s survival,” Egco said, adding that the journalist was in a critical condition. “Packs of blood have arrived at the hospital. We are investigating this case and will get to the bottom of this and get his attackers.”

Caballero has no known enemies, although he has been critical of a powerful political clan in the southern province of Maguindanao, Egco said, while declining to identify any suspects.

“I am very sure that Benjie knew who would have wanted him dead,” Egco said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines noted that Caballero serves as president of the Sultan Kudarat Task Force on Media Security. Sultan Kudarat is a province in the Soccsksargen region of Mindanao.

“Caballero posted last year on his Facebook that he (was) receiving death threats,” the NUJP said in a release.

Egco said Caballero had told him the radio station was financed by a powerful politician, adding Wednesday’s attack could have been linked to a feud between the station’s benefactor and the powerful clan.

Philippines’ ranking

Caballero’s shooting occurred one day after the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that the Philippines had the highest number of unsolved murders of journalists in the world.

In addition, CPJ’s 2019 Global Impunity Index ranked the Philippines as the fifth worse country for prosecuting the killers of journalists.

The Philippines’ ranking, it said, was due in part to the November 2009 incident when 32 journalists and media workers were among 58 people killed when a political clan massacred members of a rival family contesting the governorship of a southern province. It is considered the largest, single-day killing of press workers anywhere in the world, according to press and rights groups.

About 100 members of a powerful Muslim clan were detained and put on trial for the crime, although nearly 10 years on, a verdict has not been reached.

In July, Eduardo Dizon, 58, a broadcaster for Brigada News FM in southern Kidapawan city was gunned down as he drove home from his radio program. He was the 13th journalist or media worker killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.

Richel V. Umel in Iligan, Philippines, and Mark Navales in Cotabato contributed to this report.


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