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Philippines must determine motive in journalist murders

Philippine journalists demand justice for the murder of their colleagues. (AFP/Noel Celis)

New York, May 8, 2012--Authorities in the Philippines must investigate the murders of two journalists in the past two weeks, determine the motive, and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On Tuesday, two gunmen shot dead Nestor Libaton, 45, as he rode a motorcycle driven by a fellow reporter, according to news reports. Libaton worked as an anchor for the church-run DXHM Radio in the southern city of Mati in Davao Oriental province in Mindanao, the southernmost island in the Philippines, news reports said. News accounts reported that one of the journalist's colleagues said he had no known enemies.

On April 24, two gunmen shot Michael Jayson Calanasan, 36, in San Pablo City, in the province of Laguna, south of Manila, the capital, according to news reports. Calanasan was a reporter for the local Laguna Courier newspaper, and had been riding on a motorcycle with his wife at the time of his murder, news reports said. His wife was unhurt, the reports said. Calanasan also worked for the local city hall, news reports said.

Police in both cases said they were continuing to investigate and had not ruled out the possibility that the journalists were killed for their work, according to news reports. The Philippines ranked third on CPJ's 2012 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the Philippine government restated its intention to protect journalists, news reports said. Edwin Lacierda, a spokesman for the president, said in a press conference in Manila that President Benigno Aquino's government was unwavering in its commitment to safeguard journalists. "With respect to safety, I can assure you that we will not tolerate extra-legal killings, especially of journalists. Every time we hear an attempt on media personnel, we immediately inform the Philippine National Police. That is something that we are very strong about," he said.

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