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Philippines 12 October 2007

Iligan City radio journalist shot in the stomach

Reporters Without Borders today called on the government and provincial authorities to order an exhaustive investigation into an attempt to murder radio journalist Jose Cagalawan Pantoja on 8 October in Iligan City, in the southern province of Lanao del Norte, in which he sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“It is vital that the police identify those responsible for this apparently targeted and premeditated attack on a radio presenter,” the press freedom organisation said. “The contract killers and those who put out the contract must not remain unpunished.”

Aged 44, Pantoja works for Iligan City-based radio dxLs. Two men on a motor-cycle shot him several times in the stomach at short range near a Mindanao university building. He was rushed to Mindanao hospital in a critical condition.

Known as a hard-hitting reporter, Pantoja is the main presenter of “Katawhan Alagaran” (Serve the People), a daily programme on local politics in which he investigates corruption and often criticises Lanao del Norte governor Vincente Belmonte. He has been the target of several defamation suits, some of which have been dismissed. He used to be the spokesman of former Lanao del Norte governor Imela Dimaporo, who was defeated by Belmonte in the most recent elections. He said he received death threats prior to the shooting.

Journalism is a dangerous profession in the Philippines. At least six journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2006. Murders, physical attacks, arrests, unwarranted lawsuits and censorship are all commonplace.

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