RSF condemns Philippines president-elect’s comments about journalists

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte ... "Not only are [Duterte's] statements unworthy of a president but they could also be regarded as violations of the law on defamation." Image: RSF Paris

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is outraged by Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s comment that corrupt journalists are legitimate murder targets and urges the Philippine media to boycott his press conferences until he issues a formal, public apology.

RSF also calls for legal action against Duterte.

Duterte made his comments about journalists at a news conference he gave on Tuesday in the southern city of Davao (where he is mayor) to announce his future cabinet. He is due to take office as president on June 30.

Asked what he would do to combat impunity for crimes of violence against journalists (the Philippines being one of the world’s 10 deadliest countries for media personnel), Duterte replied: “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

Referring to corrupt journalists, he added: “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.”

He also said that people who defame are not protected by the constitution from violent repercussions.

“Not only are these statements unworthy of a president but they could also be regarded as violations of the law on defamation or even the law on inciting hatred and violence,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

‘Violent repercussions’
“Duterte should nonetheless be pleased by the existence of these laws because without them he would also be exposed to violent repercussions, according to his own words.

“We urge organisations that represent the media to not overlook comments of this kind and to bring lawsuits. We also urge the media to boycott the Duterte administration’s news conferences until the media community gets a public apology.”

Elected president by a big majority on May 9, Duterte is known for his provocative comments.

In Davao City, he allegedly ran “death squads” (private militias) implicated in the execution-style murders of a more than 1000 presumed “criminals” from 1998 to 2008.

Seven journalists were murdered in the Philippines in 2015 although, as a result of the prevailing impunity for crimes of violence against media personnel, it has only been possible to establish in three of the cases that the victims were killed in connection with their journalistic activity.

Respect for media freedom declined in 2015 in the Philippines, which is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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