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Justice For Murdered Journalist

Justice For Murdered Journalist As Three Accused Found Guilty

MANILA (IFJ-Asia/Pacific Media Watch): The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is heartened by today's conviction of three persons charged with the murder of journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat - dubbed the local "Erin Brockovich" by the Philippines press.

Esperat, a columnist for Midland Review in the southern island of Mindanao, was reportedly murdered on March 24, 2005 in her own home in the city of Tacurong after uncovering multi-million peso anomalies in the Department of Agriculture.

According to local reports, Cebu RTC Judge Eric Menchavez sentenced gunman Gerry Cabagay, and co-accused "masterminds" Randy Grecia and Estanislao Bismanos to life in jail for the murder of Esperat.

The three accused were also reportedly ordered by the court to pay the heirs of Esperat P75,000 (approximately USD 1500) in civil indemnity, P75,000 in moral damages, and P25,000 (approximately USD 500) for exemplary damages.

"This is a rare win in the battle for justice for the overwhelming numbers of journalists brutally murdered in the Philippines," IFJ president Christopher Warren said.

Since 2001, 46 media practitioners have been killed in the Philippines under the rule of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Yet this verdict is only the fourth conviction in a journalist murder case. The other convictions to date relate to the deaths of Nesino Paulin Toling, Odilon Mallari and Edgar Damalerio.

"We are hopeful that this victory for press freedom will set a solid example for future trials of journalist killers and send a strong message to those who seek to silence the media through brutal murders that they will be brought to justice," Warren said.

The IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries, urges the government of the Philippines to take immediate action and investigate all other unsolved journalist murder cases and ensure these senseless killings do not continue.

ends

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