FILIPINO President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has come under fire from press freedom advocates after he said journalists who were killed likely deserved their fates because they were corrupt.
Responding to questions on how his administration would address media killings Tuesday, the Davao city mayor said freedom of the press, which is enshrined constitutionally, could not protect a journalist from getting killed, especially if they were a “son of a bitch”.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination,” he was quoted as saying in ABS-CBN.
“Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong.”
The tough-talking Duterte, who has previously courted numerous controversies for making outlandish remarks, pointed to the murder of Jun Pala, a radio commentator and a hard critic of the mayor who was gunned down in 2003.
“Jun Pala, he was a rotten son of a bitch,” Duterte claimed.
Asked whether that justified Pala’s murder, Duterte said: “That is the reason. You are asking me why? That is the reason. You have to debate with the killer.”
Nothing justifies the murder of journalists!
Mr. Duterte’s crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and… https://t.co/lo8nXg4iV3
— NUJP (@nujp) May 31, 2016
Last week, a Manila-based crime journalist was gunned down outside a family-owned shop.
Duterte’s transition spokesperson Peter Lavina was sent to meet the family of Alex Balcoba during his wake.
Lavina said the incoming president intended to form a task force to probe media killings.
Dueterte’s remarks drew criticism from The National Union of Journalists.
In a statement, the union said: “It is appalling that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte should justify the murder of journalists in the country by playing the corruption card.”
Although the group did not deny that graft may have been a factor behind some of the killings, the union maintained that it did not justify taking one’s life.
“Murder is no joke. Neither is press freedom,” it said.