Outrage after Duterte justifies Philippine journalists’ murders
MANILA – Agence France-PresseMedia groups expressed outrage June 1 at Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of killing corrupt journalists, warning his comments could incite more murders in a nation already one of the world’s most dangerous for reporters.
Duterte, who won last month’s elections in a landslide after pledging to kill tens of thousands of criminals, told reporters on May 31 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,” Duterte said using a sware word as journalists. He was 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.” It conceded there were corruption problems in the industry but said these 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 home town of Davao to introduce his cabinet on May 31, 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 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 AFP.