MANILA, Philippines — A gunman shot and killed a journalist who was watching TV at a store in a central Philippine city, in a brazen attack in what has long been regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.
Jesus Malabanan, a 58-year-old provincial correspondent for the Manila Standard newspaper, died while being transported to a hospital after being shot once in the head by one of two motorcycle-riding men Wednesday night at a family store he was tending in Calbayog city in Samar province, police and officials said Thursday.
The suspects escaped and a police investigation is underway to identify them and a motive for the attack.
Media watchdog groups condemned the killing, including Malabanan’s colleagues in Pampanga, a province north of Manila where he was based and worked for years as a news correspondent and as a stringer for Reuters.
A media protection body created by President Rodrigo Duterte strongly condemned the killing and vowed to arrest the killers. Duterte has been a target of human rights and media watchdogs for his inability to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Dozens of journalists have been killed or come under attack under Duterte and his predecessors. In 2009, members of a powerful political clan and their associates gunned down 58 people, including 32 media workers, in a brazen execution-style attack in southern Maguindanao province that horrified the world.
While the mass killing was later linked to a violent electoral rivalry common in many rural areas, it also showcased the threats faced by journalists in the Philippines. Journalists in poverty-stricken Southeast Asia face security threats from a slew of illegal guns, private armies and powerful clans.
Thirty-two of those gunned down in Maguindanao’s Ampatuan town were local reporters and media workers. Media watchdogs claim it was the most brutal attack against journalists in modern history.
A Philippine court found key members of the Ampatuan family guilty of the mass killings in 2019 but many more suspects remain at large.