December 1, 2005

Gunman kills journalist in central Philippines

By Manny Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) - A radio and newspaper commentator was
shot dead at a public market in the central Philippines, the
10th journalist to be killed this year, police said on 'Friday.

The Philippines is the most dangerous country in the world
to be a journalist in terms of the number of killings,
according to the New York-based Committee to Protect

George Benaojan, 27, was talking to a colleague at the
public market in Talisay City on the central island of Cebu
when a lone gunman shot him in the neck and chest on Thursday

He died hours later at a nearby hospital, said
Superintendent Vicente Loot, the police chief for Cebu

"The killing may have something to do with his
commentaries," Loot told Reuters by phone. "We are now trying
to review his past commentaries to give us a clue to the
possible suspects who wanted him dead."

Benaojan's murder came three days after a Cebu City court
sentenced a former police officer to life in prison for killing
a newspaper editor on the southern island of Mindanao.

Despite government promises to stop the murders, and cash
rewards, the conviction was the first in 73 killings of
journalists since democracy was restored in 1986 by a "people
power" revolt that chased out dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Most of the killings have been related to investigations of
corruption, gambling, narcotics and other illegal activities.
There have also been cases of reporters murdered on suspicion
they were taking bribes.

Benaojan had been getting death threats on his mobile phone
and escaped an ambush a year ago when gunmen fired at his car
outside his home, said Loot, the Cebu police chief.

"We have talked to many witnesses who saw the whole
incident," he said. "We are now making a cartographic sketch of
the gunman who escaped with two accomplices in a waiting taxi
near the market."

Benaojan's murder came 12 days after a tabloid columnist
was killed by two gunmen near his office in Laguna province,
south of Manila.