PH deadliest country in Asia for journalists – report

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 20) — After having zero media killings last year, the Philippines is back to being one of the deadliest countries for journalists.

A report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) found four out of five Filipino journalists targeted by gunmen were killed this year.

The number makes the Philippines the deadliest country for media workers in Asia, and the fifth in the world.

The report did not name the slain Filipino journalists, but a tracker by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) lists three who personalities who were killed this year.

They include Christopher Iban Lozada, a radio broadcaster from Bislig, Surigao del Sur who was gunned down and whose death was connected to the city mayor; Leo Diaz, a tabloid columnist who was killed in Batangas; and Joaquin Briones, a radio commentator and columnist whose murderers got away on a motorcycle in Masbate, according to local police.

Related: Bislig reporter shot dead; city mayor eyed as person of interest

The list might also count publisher and columnist Larry Que, who called out local officials for alleged involvement in drugs. He was killed in December 19, 2016, and became the first media killing under President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

RSF reports that at least 65 journalists were killed in connection to their jobs, an 18 percent decrease from last year. The figure is composed of 50 professional journalists, eight media workers, and seven citizen journalists.

A worldwide round-up of figures show 326 journalists detained, 54 held hostage, and 2 missing this year.

Syria, which has topped the list since 2012, still stays the deadliest country with 12 journalists dying on the job this year.

It is followed by Mexico, where 11 journalists were deliberately targeted, mostly for covering the country's notorious drug cartels.

Middle Eastern countries Afghanistan and Iraq followed suit, with nine and eight deaths respectively.

The report only lists cases of work-related deaths that can be backed by substantial evidence. Cases under investigation are not included.

While the Philippines enjoys a free and diverse press, the country is also wracked by a culture of impunity. The CMFR lists 156 Filipino journalists having been killed in instances related to their work since 1986.

The figure hit an all-time high with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, which took the lives of 58 individuals — at least 30 of whom worked in the media.

Duterte previously made remarks that seemed to justify the killings, prompting outcry from media practitioners last year.

"Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch," he said in June 2016. "Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong."

However, he has also since formed the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, which is tasked with recording and looking into unresolved media killings.

CNN Philippines Senior Researcher Ella Hermonio contributed to this report.