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Masked men kill radio commentator in Philippines

Two masked men on a motorbike shot dead a radio commentator in the restive southern Philippines today, police said, the second journalist murdered in the country this year.

Ernie Rollin was parking his motorcycle at a petrol station in Oroquieta City on the southern island of Mindanao when the two men wearing masks shot him at close range, police said.

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists -- five were murdered last year while 59 have been killed since 2001, based on records from the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines.

"We're still looking at all probable motives behind this killing," Danilo Empedrad, regional police chief in northern Mindanao, told reporters. "We're not ruling out any angles, including the possibility it could be work-related."

He said investigators four spent shells from a calibre .45 pistol were found near Rollin's body. Rollin had been leaving his motorcycle at the petrol station every morning to take public transportation to work in nearby Ozamis City.

Empedrad said Rollin's girlfriend was a few yards (metres) from the spot where the broadcaster was killed when she heard gunshots. She tried to help Rollin, but one of the gunmen stopped her and fired another shot at the back of his head, he added.

She told local radio that the journalist, known for his hard-hitting commentaries against corruption and criminal activities in the local community, had no known enemies.

Investigative stories about drug trafficking, gambling, corruption and other illegal activities involving officials in the Philippines often put reporters at risk.

Corruption in the media, with underpaid journalists sometimes taking bribes to report stories, also places reporters in danger from disgruntled paymasters or their rivals.

Under fire from local and international human rights groups for its failure to protect hundreds of journalists and left-wing activists killed over the past seven years, the government has vowed to track down killers of reporters but there have been few convictions.


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