Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo set up a 5 million peso ($92,600) "press freedom" fund on Monday to help solve murders of journalists in the country.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has labelled the Philippines as the most dangerous country in the world for media with 18 killings of reporters since January 2000.
It was followed by war-torn Iraq, Colombia, Russia and Bangladesh. Philip Agustin, the publisher-editor of a community newspaper in the northeastern Luzon region, was shot dead last week at his house making him the fifth Filipino journalist to be killed this year. At least four other journalists have survived attacks.
"The attacks against our journalists are frightening and must be stopped," Arroyo told reporters at the launching of the fund. "These acts of wanton violence against the men and women who form the very foundation of a free press and open society are acts of violence against the nation itself."
Arroyo said the fund would be used to buy information to apprehend killers of reporters, protect witnesses to ensure prosecution of suspects, and provide financial aid for children of slain journalists.
"The fund is a step towards resolving the country's press freedom crisis. It is not the solution," said Inday Espina-Varona, head of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. "It is the human factor -- political will -- that will spell the difference."
The union said close to 70 journalists had been killed in the Philippines since 1986, when democracy was restored after the ouster of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a popular revolt.
MANILA, May 16 (Reuters) © reuters