The Monday murder of Filipino radio broadcaster, Edmund Sestoso, 51, who was shot to death by motorcycle-riding gunmen, has sent a ripple through the global journalistic community, prompting the release of a statement yesterday from media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“We are absolutely horrified by this tragedy and we express our complete solidarity with the Philippine media community, which is once again in mourning,” Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk said in the statement.
Sestoso, the host of Tug-anan on dyGB 91.7 FM, was shot in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental on Visayas Island while riding a tricycle on his way back home from the radio station. He was shot by masked gunmen multiple times and sustained wounds in the chest, arms, and legs.
He was brought to the Silliman University Medical Center but died on Tuesday at about 3pm due to multiple organ failure and shock.
The suspects and their motive for shooting Sestoso have not been identified, but the police suspect it is connected to his work as a broadcaster. In his radio show, Sestoso often comments on local political issues.
Sestoso’s death is just the latest example of the dangers journalists face in the Philippines, named “Asia’s deadliest country for the media” by RSF last year.
While this is the first media-related death this year, the Philippines still dropped six notches in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index released last week.
According to the report, the danger comes not just from physical threats but from a “growing animosity” towards journalists that is “openly encouraged” by political leaders.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has openly criticized journalists, even calling some “fake news.”
Less than a month after winning the presidency in 2016, he also said that corrupt journalists deserve to die.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” he said when asked about media killings in the Philippines. “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.”