Reporters Without Borders today condemned the fatal shooting of news photographer Gene Boyd Lumawag by a lone sniper yesterday while on assignment for the local news agency Mindanews on Jolo island, an Islamist bastion in the southern Philippines. The gunman escaped and no arrests were made.
Lumawag’s death brought to nine the number of journalists killed in the course of their work so far this year in the Philippines, making it the world’s most dangerous country for the press after Iraq.
"Once again we are dismayed by the death of a journalist in the Philippines," Reporters Without Borders said. "The investigations into each of these terrible murders must be pursued to the end if they are to stop. As in the other case, the authorities must explore all leads and the police must be given all the resources they need to find out who killed Lumawag."
Aged 26, Lumawag was preparing a report on Aid al-Fitr, the Muslim festivity that marks the end of Ramadan. He was hit by a 45mm bullet in the forehead as he was heading towards the pier in the town of Jolo to photograph the sunset. He was working with another journalist from Mindanao island who was managed find refuge in a church and was not hurt.
Army investigators told Mindanews they thought the shooting was the work of members of an "urban terrorist group" linked to Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist group fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for many attacks and kidnappings and is alleged by both the Philippine and US authorities to be linked to Al-Qaeda.