Statement: Murder of radio anchor Gerardo Ortega

Reporters Without Borders / Reporters sans frontiers
Outspoken radio host gunned down
A local radio presenter with a reputation for outspokenness was shot in the head and killed today on the island of Palawan in the west of the Philippines. Gerardo Ortega hosted a daily program “Ramatak”, on the station Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR. A man, identified as Marvin Alcaraz and said to be resident in Manila, is reported to have been arrested at the scene of the crime carrying a .45 caliber handgun and is being held in connection with the killing. No motive has been identified.
Reporters Without Borders conveys its total support to the family, friends and journalist colleagues of the victim and urges the local authorities to disclose swiftly the motive for the murder and the circumstances surrounding it.
“The organization is horrified by this act or savagery and calls once again on the government to guarantee the protection of journalists,” the press freedom body said.
“It is time that the promises of Benigno Aquino, president of the Philippines since July 2010, who announced better security for journalists in his country and an end to the culture of impunity, become a reality. Impunity remains the chief evil corroding the country.”
At the moment of his death Gerardo Ortega, also known as “Doc Gerry” was in a clothes shop in the town of Puerto Princesa, capital of Palawan province, almost 600 km south of Manila. The family lawyer Joselito Alisuag said the killing had to be linked to his work as a journalist since he had “no personal enemies or particular vice.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) says 142 journalists have been killed since the restoration of democracy in 1986. The country was in 156th place in the world press freedom rankings drawn up by Reporters Without Borders in 2010. It is one of the most violent countries in the world for journalists. Local radio presenters are especially exposed to threats and attacks.

IFJ Condemns Murder of Environmental Commentator in the Philippines
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins with affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in condemning the murder of radio anchor Gerardo Ortega, a commentator with dwAR, in the country’s far-western island province Palawan on January 24.
Ortega was shot in the head at around 10 am as he was shopping in the San Pedro district of Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan province. He is the 142nd media worker to be killed since the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and the second to be killed during the administration of current president Benigno Aquino III.
Police apprehended Manila resident Marvin Alcaraz with a weapon near the scene of the crime shortly after the shooting. Alcaraz reportedly claimed to only have intended to rob Ortega. It is not yet known whether Ortega’s murder was related to his work as a radio anchor.
Ortega, a former gubernatorial candidate, was a vocal critic of the province’s governor and had publicly campaigned against mining operations in Palawan. He also headed an ecotourism project in the province supported by the charitable arm of broadcaster ABS-CBN.
“Ortega’s murder is a reminder that the Philippines is still among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“His death, like those of all his colleagues before him, must not go unpunished by authorities in the Philippines.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES

It is now time for an accounting

It is no longer enough to condemn the murder of yet another media colleague. It is no longer enough to rail against the government apathy and inaction that has allowed impunity to flourish and continue to embolden those who would silence the independent Philippine media.

It is now time for an accounting. It is now time for President Benigno Aquino III to make good on his promises of justice and good governance or admit that he, like all presidents before him, is unable or unwilling to go beyond lip service.

The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines demands that President Aquino not only ensure justice for the killing of Palawan radio commentator and environmental activist Dr. Gerardo Ortega, the second journalist murdered under his watch, but for all the 141 media murders that preceded this crime since 1986, including the Ampatuan Massacre.

We challenge President Aquino to acknowledge that the State should be accountable, not only for all media murders, but for all extrajudicial killings and human rights violations committed by its agents, or to admit that the State and his administration cannot or will not fulfill its most basic duty, to protect its citizenry.

Once again, we say, if you, Mr. President, truly wish to make good on your pledge of good governance, order all the media killings solved and the masterminds arrested, prosecuted and convicted. Once again, we assert that an honest-to-goodness effort to solve the murders of journalists in this country will reveal that behind most of the cases are powerful political interests that rule through intimidation or use of assassins’ bullets and corruption money.

Far be it for media to demand recognition as a special sector. Nevertheless, we assert that the murder of a journalist is not a simple crime but a direct assault on the people’s right to know and one of the cornerstones of democracy – the free market of ideas.

Mr. Aquino, the ball is in your hands.

Reference:
Nestor Burgos Jr., NUJP chair
Rowena Paraan, NUJP secretary-general and Media Safety Office coordinator

Committee to Protect Journalists

Philippine broadcaster gunned down after morning show

New York, January 24, 2011—Police in southern Palawan province must thoroughly investigate the motives behind today’s murder of Philippine radio broadcaster Gerardo Ortega, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A gunman shot Ortega, host of a talk show on DWAR, in the back of the head as the journalist was shopping in a Puerto Princesa City clothing store shortly after his morning broadcast, according to local and international news reports. The news outlet ABS-CBN said police arrested a suspect, who told officers his motive was robbery.

Ortega, 47, had received recent death threats from an unknown source, according to The Associated Press. The journalist had criticized local officials accused of corruption and had opposed provincial mining projects, news reports said. A former veterinarian who headed an institute for breeding crocodiles, Ortega was also involved in local politics, news reports said. CPJ is investigating whether his murder was related to his journalism.

The Philippines placed third on CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. It calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population. CPJ is waging a Global Campaign Against Impunity that focusing closely on Russia and the Philippines.

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.cpj.org.

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