A radio broadcaster in central Philippines’ Negros Oriental province was shot dead by bike-borne assailants, the 16th journalist to be killed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
Cornelio Pepino, 48, worked for community radio station dyMD Energy in the city of Dumaguete, where another two journalists have been killed since 2018, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said.
Cornelio was traveling on his motorcycle along with his wife when two riders on another motorbike came closer and fired at him on Tuesday, Efe news reported.
He was taken to the Siliman University Medical Centre but was declared dead on arrival.
The police are not ruling out the possibility that the attack was related to Cornelio’s work as a broadcaster, said Lt. Allen June Germondo, who is in charge of the investigation.
Cornelius was sued for defamation in 2014 by the governor of Negros Oriental, Roel Degamo, but was acquitted in 2017.
According to the NUJP’s data, Cornelius would be the 188th journalist killed for his work in the Philippines, one of Asia’s deadliest countries for those working in the media.
The Ampatuan massacre, an episode of election-related violence in south Philippines in 2009, in which 68 people, including 32 journalists, were killed, is considered the world’s worst single-day murder of media workers.
The masterminds of the massacre, members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, were not sentenced to life imprisonment until December 2019, ten years after the crime, and that delay has led the Philippines to be ranked highest in the list of countries with the most impunity in attacks on journalists.
Cornelius’s murder occurred on the same day that the National Telecommunications Commission of the Philippines ordered ABS-CBN channel, the country’s largest telecommunications group, to immediately stop operations following the expiration of its license, another sign of the poor state of press freedom in the Philippines.
Since Duterte took office on June 30, 2016, there have been up to 172 attacks on the media including 16 murders, 33 incidents of intimidation, 10 arrests, 12 assaults with violence and 17 defamation charges, according to a study by the NUJP and the Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility, presented on Sunday on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.