Broadcaster shot dead in Philippines

ILIGAN, Philippines - Hooded gunmen shot dead an outspoken radio broadcaster in the southern Philippines, police said Friday in a country branded as one of the most dangerous for journalists.

Fernando Solijon, 47, host of a weekday show on DXLS station in Iligan City, was returning home late Thursday when two men onboard a motorcycle shot him 13 times, said the city police chief.

“I believe they are professional killers. It is possible that this killing was politically-related,” said Senior Superintendent Cristito Gonzaludo.

Solijon had frequently criticised local officials on his radio show and had received death threats in the past, he added.

He declined to identify any suspects in the killing, saying an investigation was still going on.

The regional safety coordinator for a national media association said Solijon was known for his fiery criticism of town mayors and other local officials.

“He had received a lot of threats, some of them called into his radio station,” said Joseph Ben Deveza of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Such attacks on journalists are common in the Philippines, especially in the southern Mindanao region where various armed groups, such as insurgents, Islamic militants and politicians’ private armies are active, he said.

“There are a lot of warlords, a lot of loose firearms and a lot of crime syndicates here. The fight for political positions is more heated and they are quicker to resort to violence,” Deveza told AFP

Critics also blame the country’s “culture of impunity” that sees many among the powerful not being brought to justice for criminal acts.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 73 Philippine journalists have been killed in direct connection to their work since 1992, making it the second deadliest country in the world for the press.

In the worst case, 32 journalists were among 58 people kidnapped and murdered allegedly by a powerful political clan in the southern province of Maguindanao in November 2009.