MANILA: Philippine media groups expressed outrage Wednesday at president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of killing corrupt journalists, warning his comments could incite more murders.
Duterte, who won this month’s elections in a landslide, told reporters on Tuesday that there was justification for killing journalists who took bribes or engaged in other corrupt activities.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said when asked how he would address the problem of media killings in the Philippines after a reporter was shot dead in Manila last week.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines described the comments as “appalling”, conceding there were corruption problems in the local media industry but that did not justify murdering reporters.
“He has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media, both individual journalists and the institution, on the mere perception of corruption,” the NUJP said in a statement.
The Philippines is one of the most dangerous nations in the world for journalists, with 176 murdered since a chaotic and corruption-plagued democracy replaced the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos three decades ago.
Speaking at a press conference in his hometown of Davao to introduce his cabinet on Tuesday night, Duterte suggested the majority of those victims were partly to blame.
“Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong,” said Duterte, who will be sworn into office on June 30.
Luis Teodoro, deputy director of the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, described Duterte’s comments as “distressing” and also said they sent a signal to would-be killers that it was okay to murder in certain circumstances.
“When you say corrupt journalists can be killed, that is a very clear message,” Teodoro told Agence France-Presse.
Duterte on Tuesday also raised the case of Jun Pala, a journalist and politician who was murdered in Davao in 2003.
Gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead Pala, who was a vocal critic of Duterte. His murder has never been solved.
“If you are an upright journalist, nothing will happen to you,” said Duterte, who has ruled Davao as mayor for most of the past two decades and is accused of links to vigilante death squads. “The example here is Pala. I do not want to diminish his memory but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it.”
One of the world’s deadliest attacks against journalists took place in the Philippines in 2009, when 32 journalists were among 58 people killed by a warlord clan intent on stopping a rival’s election challenge. AFP