Journalist shot dead in ‘cowardly’ killing in Philippines

December 10, 2021 - 8:44 AM
File photo of slain journalist Jesus "Jess" Malabanan (Facebook/Jesus Yutrago Malabanan)

MANILA — A Filipino journalist who formerly worked with Reuters has been killed in a drive-by shooting, authorities said on Thursday, one of more than a dozen journalists killed in the country in the past five years.

Jesus “Jess” Malabanan, 58, who worked with the Manila Standard, among other news media, was shot dead late on Wednesday by unknown gunmen while watching television at home in Calbayog in the province of Samar, police said.

They said the motive for the attack was not immediately clear and that two gunmen fled the scene.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Karlo Nograles, said Malabanan’s death was a “tragic murder” and urged witnesses to come forward. The Presidential Task Force on Media Security was looking into the incident, Nograles said, and was “exploring all angles, including the possibility that the killing was related to his work as a journalist.”

Malabanan last worked with Reuters on the agency’s reporting on Duterte’s war on drugs, which won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2018.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jesus Malabanan,” a Reuters spokesperson said, describing him as a “talented and tenacious journalist”.

The Manila Standard had no immediate comment on Malabanan’s murder.

The Philippines is one of the world’s deadliest places for journalists, with at least 187 killed in the past 35 years, according to the presidential task force, which called Malabanan’s killing “cowardly”.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said his murder “underscores the threats and dangers Filipino journalists continue to face.”

Human rights groups say violence and intimidation of the media has worsened under Duterte, who came to power in 2016. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), 21 media workers have been killed in the country since Duterte took office.

The president’s office has said it does not condone threats against the media.

Malabanan’s killing was condemned by local media associations, activists and politicians, including Manny Pacquiao, a retired boxing champion and presidential contender, who urged police to find his killers.

“This cold-blooded murder is an undeniable proof of the glaring impunity that continues to pervade in our country,” Pacquiao said in a statement. —Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Tattersall