This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (,,
Vol. IV, No. 41, November 14-20, 2004



Highest media death toll since 1986
Mindanao Photo Ed’s Murder Brings to 9 Slain Journalists in Philippines

Photojournalist Gene Boyd Lumawag’s killing breaks national and world record on the number of journalists slain.


He was supposed to shoot the sunset from Jolo pier in southern Philippines. It was a shot that he never took.

In Jolo to cover eidl fitr, the celebration marking the end of the Holy month of Ramadhan, MindaNews photo editor Gene Boyd Lumawag was on his way to take pictures of the sunset from Jolo pier last Nov. 12. Before he got there, Lumawag was felled by a single gunshot from a .45 handgun.

Lumawag’s death brings to nine the number of Filipino journalists killed this year, the highest since 1986 when democracy returned to the Philippines after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted. (See table below.) It also brings to 58 the total number of journalists killed since 1986.

In its statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a nationwide organization of journalists in the country, described the killing as senseless. “Covering a religious event, wanting to capture the beauty of nature – this juxtaposition only heightens the total insanity of the crime,” the group said.

“For all the lip service paid by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to press freedom, this latest outrage just rams home the truth of the Philippines being among the world’s most dangerous places for journalists,” NUJP went further.

Not just in the Philippines

The killing of Lumawag and a reporter each from Nicaragua and Ivory Coast brought to over 101 the number of killed journalists and media staff worldwide this year. This is already higher than last year’s record of 92 and 30 more than in 2002, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The IFJ warned that 2004 “may turn out to be the worst year on record for killings of journalists and media staff.”

“2004 is turning out to be one of the most bloody years on record,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The crisis of news safety has reached an intolerable level and must be addressed urgently.”

IFJ reported that in the Ivory Coast, a local correspondent for Le Courrier d'Abidjan, a daily supporting President Laurent Gbagbo, was killed Nov. 7 during clashes between the Ivorian army, demonstrators and French peacekeepers. The reporter, Antoine Massé, who also worked as a teacher, was shot as he was covering a demonstration aimed at blocking the eastward advance of the French troops towards Abidjan.

In Nicaragua, according to IFJ, a journalist was shot and killed in a fight between rival political factions during municipal elections. Maria Jose Bravo, 26, correspondent for newspaper La Prensa, was shot in the chest at a tabulation center in the north-eastern city of Juigalpa.

Too quick to point a finger?

According to NUJP, Army officials have immediately pointed at the Abu Sayyaf as the perpetrator.

It said however that Lumawag’s colleagues believe the Abu Sayyaf or any other Moro rebel group had no reason to want him dead since Lumawag has covered the Muslim insurgency several times. In fact, he was just part of a team that recently featured the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

NUJP cited reports that Lumawag’s Jolo coverage was also in lieu of an investigation into local corruption.

“While the government has ample reason to hate the Abu Sayyaf, hasty pin-pointing of blame could withhold justice from Gene and his family. If indeed the suspects were members of the Abu Sayyaf, authorities should explain why the group had targeted Gene for murder, and try to investigate if the suspects were working for other groups or individuals,” NUJP stressed. 

It urged the military and the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Newsman to dig deeper into the roots of the incident.

Another case

The NUJP also condemned in its statement the threat incident against a television reporter and a cameraman last Nov. 11.

According to MindaNews, soldiers threatened ABS-CBN reporter Paul Palacio and his cameraman Loloy Cagayan with bursts of gunfire while the latter were covering an alleged collection of “toll fees” among dump trucks drivers hauling aggregates at the quarry site near at the headquarters of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Said MindaNews: “The incident occurred as members of the Malaysian-led peace monitors are sending off their visiting superiors -- Brunei Royal Armed Forces Gen. Pehin Dato Lailaraja and Malaysian Army chief Gen. Dato Sri Abdulazis Hadji Jainal -- at the Cotabato Awang Airport, some 600 meters away from the site of incident.” Bulatlat



News Organization

Date Killed

1.  Ruel Endrinal

DZRC/Legazpi City

Feb. 11, 2004

2.  Eliseo “Ely” Binoya

Radyo Natin/General Santos City

June 17, 2004

3.  Roger Mariano

DZJC-Aksyon Radio/ Laoag

July 31, 2004 

4.  Arnnel Manalo


Aug. 5, 2004 

5.  Jonathan Abayon

RGMA Superadyo/ General Santos City

Aug. 8, 2004 

6.  Fernando Consignado

Radio Veritas / Laguna

Aug. 12, 2004 

7.  Romy Binungcal

Remate / Bataan

Sept. 29, 2004 

8.  Eldy Gabinales (Eldy Sablas)

DXJR-FM / Tandag, Surigao del Sur

Oct. 19, 2004 

9.  Gene Boyd Lumawag

MindaNews / Davao City

Nov. 12, 2004

 © 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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