PRESIDENT-elect Rody Duterte was absolutely correct about two things when he spoke against corrupt journalists on Tuesday at a news conference in Davao City (which was called to announce who his key Cabinet members would be).
He said some media are corrupt and some journalists took bribes and did corrupt activities.
But he was absolutely wrong when he said in the same breath that these corrupt journalists deserved what they got. He also said those who end up getting killed are the journalists who receive money but “still play.” We assume he meant that a bribed journalist should keep his end of the bargain and not write—even teasing references in columns—about the expose he has been paid to suppress.
He was also very correct when he said, “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” when asked by a reporter how he would address the problem of media killings in the Philippines. “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.”
Wrong, sir! Some journalists, many journalists, Mr. Duterte, were killed because they courageously reported the truth.
Ortega family’s anger and sorrow
We object to Mr. Duterte’s blanket condemnation of “most of those killed” as being “corrupt journalists” who deserve to be killed.
And we share the grief and anger of the family of slain Palawan journalist-broadcaster and environmentalism activist Gerry Ortega. His family expressed both anger and sorrow over President-elect Rody Duterte’s remark that most of the murdered journalists were killed because they were involved in corruption.
A statement sent to media and posted on Facebook by Gerry Ortega’s daughter, Michaella, angrily rejected Mr. Duterte’s generalization and defended her father’s honor.
“Our family is incensed by the hasty and crass generalizations made about murdered journalists in the country,” Michaella said.
“Doc Gerry Ortega was killed for his courage and integrity. He was murdered precisely because he was honorable. He fought for social justice. He stood up against mining in Palawan. He exposed corruption in the provincial government, which included the misuse of billions of pesos from the Malampaya funds.”
Duterte’s remark, she said, was “alarming because without due process, it casts absolute judgment on all murdered journalists including those who were killed for telling the truth.”
We join the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and National Press Club (NPC) in expressing concern that Mr. Duterte’s statement tends to justify the killing of media people. Saying that when journalists do something wrong they deserve to be murdered is an invitation to those who have a gripe over a news or column item to go ahead and kill the “son-of-a-bitch” reporter or columnist.
We agree with NPC President Paul Gutierrez, who said Mr. Duterte’s statement was “too sweeping, generalized and therefore unfair to the victims, in particular like Doc Gerry Ortega, the Ampatuan victims and to the entire profession in general.”
The Center for International Law, Inc. (Centerlaw), an organization actively working to help prosecute the perpetrators of journalist killings, warned that Mr. Duterte’s words encourage impunity.
“Granting that his allegation of media corruption is true, it does not under any circumstance justify the assassination of journalists,” Centerlaw said in a statement.
Mr. Duterte’s statement was unjust to the very many good journalists who have been killed merely because they were doing their job honestly.
The 77 journalists killed since 1992, including the 32 who were assassinated by the Ampatuan clan on Nov. 23, 2009, were all honest and zealous workers for truth and accuracy.
It is unjust to defame them.
We hope—and earnestly pray—that President-elect Duterte decides to be more circumspect—and guard against committing injustice in his future statements.