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Filipino journalist slain, 4th killed this year

A hard-hitting radio commentator was fatally shot Monday on his way to work in the eastern Philippines, becoming the fourth journalist slain this year in a country with a dismal record of prosecuting the killers.

Two witnesses who brought the bloodied body of Romeo Olea to a hospital said they heard gunshots and saw the radioman's motorcycle fall on its side along a deserted stretch of highway, police Superintendent Ronald Briones said.

He said the witnesses did not see who fired the two shots in Iriga city in Camarines Sur province.

Briones said the killing of the 49-year-old commentator for the provincial radio station DWEB-FM was most likely related to his work. Olea's wife told police that her husband had received death threats.

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. It ranks third on a list by the Committee to Protect Journalists of places with high numbers of media killings yet very few convictions. Only Iraq and Somalia are ahead of the Philippines on the group's impunity index.

Fewer than 10 people have been convicted in about 145 media killings since 1986, when democracy was restored, said National Union of Journalists of the Philippines President Nestor Burgos Jr. Out of the 145 deaths, more than 100 occurred since 2001.

In 2009, at least 31 journalists were among 57 people massacred in a political killing allegedly carried out by members of a powerful provincial clan in the southern Philippines. The body of a 32nd journalist who was part of the convoy has not been found.

Briones said police were investigating the threats Olea had received by phone about two weeks ago.

News reports and commentaries criticizing local politicians for alleged corruption and irregularities have been the main reason for a slew of assassinations targeting journalists. Even when suspected triggermen are caught, the masterminds are rarely exposed.

Human rights activists and media freedom groups have blamed entrenched corruption and dysfunctional law enforcement.

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