Mindanao, Philippines – A radio host from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao was shot dead late on Wednesday, according to an organisation of journalists, becoming the latest victim in a wave of killings in the country.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said on Thursday that if Eduardo Dizon’s murder was found to be tied to his work at an FM radio station in the city of Kidapawan, he would be the 13th journalist killed since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in June 2016.
A police report obtained by Al Jazeera stated that Dizon was driving home after hosting an evening news programme when two gunmen riding a motorcycle carried out the attack.
The report said Dizon managed to steer his car to the side of the road as he tried to evade the attackers, but he was hit five times resulting in “instantaneous death”.
The police report said that the gunmen fled towards the direction of Davao City as authorities conducted an operation to arrest the suspects.
Police recovered seven spent cartridges from a nine millimetre-calibre pistol at the crime scene.
‘Received death threats’
According to a local news report, Dizon told police that he had been receiving death threats days before he was killed.
The victim was the former manager of the same radio station, before he made an unsuccessful run for a local legislative position during the election in May.
The killing of Eduardo Dizon underscores the precariousness of press freedom in the Philippines
Dizon’s wife is also a radio news programme host.
Brigada Group, the company that owns the radio station, condemned the murder.
The killing is “an attempt to silence Brigada media and its news personalities from their exposes and position on prevailing issues”, it said in a statement.
On Sunday, the NUJP reported that its members were harassed by unidentified persons and accused of the organisation of having links to communists. It is known locally as “red-tagging”.
On July 3, gunmen also fired at another local station in General Santos, another city in Mindanao.
Last June, the publisher of a local weekly publication was killed in Davao del Norte, also in Mindanao, which has been under martial law since May 2017.
Carlos Conde from the Human Rights Watch, Philippines, said the killing “underscores the precariousness of press freedom” in the country.
“If he was murdered because of his journalistic work, this sends a signal to journalists – especially in the provinces – that they better look away from issues that matter in their community such as corruption and poor governance,” Conde told Al Jazeera.
“If he was killed because of his political activities related to his unsuccessful candidacy for councilor of the city, it highlights the shrinking civic space in the Philippines where political disagreements can prove to be deadly.”
Dangerous for journalists
The Philippines is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, with 186 people who worked with or for media companies killed since 1986.according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Human Rights Watch.
President Duterte has been known to denounce journalists for their coverage of his deadly drug war that has been dubbed as a “murderous war on drugs” by Amnesty International.
He has vilified foreign journalists for their reporting and said that corrupt journalists could be legitimately assassinated.
In 2016, a self-confessed hitman from Davao, the hometown of Duterte, recently told a Senate committee hearing that the then-mayor had ordered the killing of a radio commentator who was critical of him.
Before taking office, Duterte was also quoted as saying that the slain commentator, Jun Pala, was “a rotten son of a whore”, who “deserved” to be killed.
But Duterte also previously said that he welcomed questions from the media. “I have nothing against you. I am not at liberty to [be] angry at anybody,” he said.