Editors receive death threats

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Editors of a Davao City-based newspaper received death threats last 20 August 2009 for publishing stories allegedly biased for the city government.

Stella Estremera and Virginia “Gigie” Agtay, editor in chief and news editor, respectively, of Sun.Star Davao, received two threatening messages last 20 August. Both messages were sent through Agtay’s mobile phone.

The first message arrived at around 7: 20 p.m. (local time) warning Estremera that a single bullet could end her life if she remains “biased” for the city government. Sun.Star Davao quoted the message verbatim: “Hi stella, we knw na kasali ka payrol ng city hall. Pero huwag mong kalimotan puede kang isang bala kalang. Sayang lang galing mo. Nabulag ka sa katotohanan. BE FAIR NAMAN IN REPORTING. Maybe u knw what i mean. Dont be bias (sic). Ang panahun baya ay weather2 lang (Hi Stella, we know you’re in the city government’s payroll. But you should not forget that you could die with a single shot. Don’t waste your talent. You’re blinded from the truth. Be fair in reporting. Maybe you know what I mean. Don’t be biased.).”

Another message came approximately two hours later (9:07 p.m.) asking Agtay to tell Estremera to be fair in her reports. The message, loosely translated from the original Visayan-Tagalog mix,  said: “You’ve been regarded as an outstanding journalist, but you can’t always be on top. A single bullet would be enough for you two.”

Estremera in the Sun.Star Davao report denied that their news reports had been slanted in favor of the Davao City government. “(Our) stories can speak for themselves,” she said in the report

Estremera also denied being on the payroll of the city government.

CMFR tried to call the mobile number (+63917-912- 5620) used in sending the threats, but it is no longer accessible. The incident has been reported to the local police.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is a controversial figure who has been accused by, among others, his political rival, House of Representatives Speaker Prospero Nograles, of at least tolerating the extra-judicial killing of drug pushers and other common criminals. One of the cases of the two journalists killed in Davao City during Duterte’s watch has been linked to the mayor, who has denied any involvement. On the other hand, it was Nograles who sued local journalist Alexander Adonis for libel. Adonis was pardoned after serving almost two years of a four-year sentence. Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines.

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