Tribute to a journalist who feared becoming another statistic
Melinda “Mei” Magsino, former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, shot dead in the street with a single gunshot while walking to buy a fan for her home on Monday.
She had linked a powerful governor to illegal gambling and the fatal ambush of the resident Ombudsman for the province whom she was about to interview, was declared persona non grata by provincial mayors, and sent text warnings that two released murderers had orders to kill her. She immediately fled into the night.
Raul C. Pangalangan
Melinda “Mei” Magsino [Photo: Facebook account]
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We in the Philippines may have become accustomed to news of journalists being harassed, attacked or killed, but the murder of Melinda “Mei” Magsino, 40, on Monday brings the tragedy close to home for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Mei is the very first victim who was once an Inquirer correspondent.
Filipino journalists know the extreme hazards of their trade, and Mei Magsino, 40, was no stranger to death threats.
In 2005, Mei was an Inquirer correspondent who linked a powerful governor to illegal gambling and the fatal ambush of the resident Ombudsman for the province whom she was about to interview about his investigation of the governor.
» READ: Former Inquirer correspondent shot dead in Batangas
In mid-2014, the Global Impunity Index showed that the Philippines ranked third after Iraq and Somalia as among the top countries where the murder of journalists was most likely to go unpunished. The massacre of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in Maguindanao province in 2009 holds the record for the “deadliest single-day attack anywhere in the world on journalists.”
After the province’s league of mayors declared her persona non grata, and after getting text warnings that two convicted murderers had been released from a provincial jail with orders to kill her, she immediately fled into the night. She feared that her continued stay would place her husband and in-laws in harm’s way.
She wrote a plea to the Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros, who took up the cudgels for her in his column. “[I]t makes my blood boil that a journalist has to be made to live this way for no other reason than that she is doing her job.”
De Quiros concludes: “What has happened to us as a nation? … Have we gotten so inured to injustice we just shrug our shoulders….? No citizen, man or woman, deserves a fate like this, deprived of home and hearth for being willing to bear witness to the truth. More so, no journalist … deserves a fate like this, being hunted down like a dog for having the courage to unravel the truth.”
On Monday, death caught up with Mei. We recall what she said in 2005: “The list of murdered journalists here [in the Philippines] is too long. I have to survive. I don’t want to become another statistic.”
It falls upon us to make sure that indeed her death doesn’t become just another statistic. We need the courage and fortitude of journalists like Mei to flourish and sustain our fragile democracy.
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