More than 500 journalists in the Philippines today appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos for immediate government action to stop the spate of killings of news reporters.
The National Press Club, in an open letter to Marcos published in all newspapers to mark Press Freedom Day, noted that 22 journalists have been killed since 1979 -- 10 of whom were murdered in just the past two months.
Many of the killings were blamed on soldiers or paramilitary units.
The letter said the murder of the latest victim, provincial journalist and publisher Joselito Paloma in Surigao, north Mindanao, who was shot 30 times in his car Aug. 19, "underscores the continuing pressures on the press."
Paloma's murder was condemned by the London-based International Press Institute. In the wake of more subpoenas issued to six radio journalists in Cebu, central Philippines, which the Supreme Court of the Philippines temporarily ordered stopped yesterday, a military spokesman denied there was a renewed crackdown on the press.
Brig. Gen. Eduardo Ermita, Armed Forces of the Philippines civil relations chief said: "It was never the intention of the armed forces to launch a witch hunt against journalists."
In its appeal to Marcos, the press club, which represents more than 30 media organizations, said government action on the murders "stays anemic to this day."
Only five of the 22 cases are said to have been solved, and only a handful of suspects have been arrested, the press club pointed out.
The only known conviction was on Aug. 5, when a soldier was sentenced in absentia to 20 years hard labor. But he had managed to bolt jail at a military camp three months before the conviction.