Killing Freedom of Press in the Philippines: the Murder of Juan Jumalon

Killing Freedom of Press in the Philippines: the Murder of Juan Jumalon
Photo source: Student-led protest on the 7th of November at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication denouncing Jumalon and Gaza journalists’ murder, by Bullit Marquez via VERA files, November 8, 2023


Jeanne Gachet 

Southeast Asia & Pacific Team 

Global Human Rights Defence 

Political Background

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2023 Global Impunity Index, the Philippines ranks as the eighth worst country when it comes to the prosecution of killings of journalists. Reports show that it has consistently been in the top 10 worst countries regarding this issue in the past 16 years. In 2009, members of a powerful political group shot 58 people, of which 32 were media workers, representing the deadliest attack on journalists in recent history. Despite this, statistical research has established the existence of an increasingly preoccupying pattern of impunity and lack of investigation in the country surrounding the murder of journalists, with 20 unresolved cases since 2013. 

Duterte’s mandate played a large role in the limitation of freedom of speech, press, and overall, of freedom of expression. A 2020 Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility study has even reported the death of 19 journalists during his administration, as well as over 171 cases of threats or attacks. The election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in June 2022 seemed to bring a glimmer of hope for journalists, or a shift towards a different direction than Duterte’s intimidation and harassment policies. However, soon after his election, the killings of 2 radio commentators known for criticizing the government cast a shadow of doubt. Despite the president’s efforts to take a more diplomatic stance toward the media, CPJ has noted that self-censorship remains a large concern. The change in narrative has also not yet been matched by drastic measures to repair the damage that occurred throughout Duterte’s mandate. 

Current Affairs

On the 5th of November, provincial radio anchor Juan Jumalon was assassinated during a live morning broadcast on Facebook. The gunman, who shot him twice, successfully managed to access the home-based radio station in Calamba Town by pretending to be a listener. According to the police investigation, the murderer proceeded to steal the journalist’s gold necklace before fleeing the scene with a companion. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has condemned this tragic event, and has stated that “attacks on journalists will not be tolerated in our democracy and those who threaten freedom of speech will face the full consequences of their actions”. An investigation is still ongoing, and will hopefully establish whether the motive was work-related, as well as help identify the criminal’s identity. 

Sources and further readings: 

Committee to Protect Journalists. (2023a, May 22). Killing with impunity: Vast majority of journalists’ murderers go free - Committee to Protect Journalists.

Committee to Protect Journalists. (2023b, November 6). Haiti joins list of countries where killers of journalists most likely to go unpunished - Committee to Protect Journalists.

Jazeera, A. (2023, November 6). Philippines radio journalist shot dead on air in ‘brazen killing.’ Al Jazeera.

Obordo, R. (2021, October 9). In Rodrigo Duterte’s war on press freedom, Maria Ressa stands up for the truth. The Guardian.

Reporter, G. S. (2023, November 6). Philippines radio journalist shot dead during live broadcast. The Guardian.