The murders of two Philippine journalists triggered a fresh wave of outrage Wednesday over a relentless assault on workers in one of Asia's most vibrant but dangerous media environments.
The press men, killed in separate attacks at opposite ends of the country within the space of 24 hours, were both outspoken radio broadcasters known for their criticism of corrupt local officials.
Police said they did not know who was behind the murders, but media groups said the crimes appeared to follow a typical pattern in the Philippines in which journalists are killed to silence them.
The perpetrators, believed to often be corrupt politicians who have their own security forces, are rarely caught or punished.
"Unless this culture ends, the government will never be able to stop the killings," National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) vice chairman Nonoy Espina told AFP.
Desidario Camangyan, 52, became this week's first victim when he was shot dead by a lone gunman who walked onstage as the victim hosted a village singing contest in the southern Philippines on Monday night.
The following evening in the north of the country, Lito Agustin, 37, was ambushed and shot dead as he rode a motorcycle home.
Camangyan was well known for speaking out over the airwaves against illegal logging and mining, while Agustin had similarly been very vocal in trying to expose corruption in his hometown.
With the latest killings, Espina said 139 journalists had been slain in the Philippines since 1986, the year a popular revolt ended the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and restored press freedom in the Southeast Asian nation.
A culture of impunity is to blame for the violence, which targets judges, prosecutors and dissidents as well as journalists, said Luis Teodoro, a director with local media watchdog Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
"The conditions which make these killings possible must be removed," he told AFP.
"That means you are going to have to punish the guilty and show that the justice system works. You must show that one cannot just kill anybody and get away with it."
Teodoro said only three murders of journalists had been resolved -- meaning at least some of the suspects convicted and jailed -- since his group began monitoring media killings in 1992.
President Gloria Arroyo has been criticised for not doing enough to change the culture of impunity, and 105 of the journalist deaths in the post-Marcos era have occurred since she came to power in 2001.
Last year was especially bloody with 33 journalists murdered, most of them in a massacre that left a total of 57 people dead in the south in November.
Members of a Muslim clan that ruled the southern province of Maguindanao who were then close allies of Arroyo have been charged with murder over the massacre.
International media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists rates the Philippines third, behind Iraq and Somalia, in its "Global Impunity Index" in which killers of journalists literally get away with murder.
The NUJP's Espina urged president-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, who will take over from Arroyo on June 30, to make addressing the high murder rate of journalists one of his top priorities.
"We don't expect this (Arroyo) administration to lift a finger, but these (latest murders) should be seen as a personal challenge by Noynoy in light of his campaign promise to look into the media killings," Espina said.
Source: AFP Asian Edition