Press groups denounce Duterte's comments on media killings

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Journalists were quick to react to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's statement that most journalists who have been killed because of their work were corrupt.

"Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean you’re exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch," Duterte said in a press conference on Tuesday evening after announcing the members of his Cabinet.

Duterte made the statement after being asked about what he would do to address media killings.

"Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong to the guy. Do not believe it so much na you swallow it hook, line and sinker. Alam mo na marami diyan, binabayaran, pati writers. Alam mo iyan," the next president of the Philippines also said.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Chairman Ryan Rosauro strongly objected to Duterte's remarks, stressing that nothing justifies the murder of journalists.

Rosauro noted that the incoming president's remarks sullies the names and memories of the 176 journalists who have been murdered in the Philippines since 1986.

"Admittedly, this would not be the first time the perceived corruption of the media has been bandied as a justification for the murder of journalists. And Mr. Duterte tries to explain his thesis by claiming assassination is retribution from private individuals unjustly pilloried by errant journalists," Rosauro said.

The NUJP head clarified that the group does not deny that corruption could be the reason of some media killings.

"However, it is one thing to recognize a possible reason for murder; it is a totally different thing to present this as a justification for taking life," he said.

Meanwhile, the National Press Club (NPC) said that Duterte's observation was a generalization and was unfair to a number of victims including broadcaster Gerry Ortega and victims of the Ampatuan massacre.

"While we acknowledge that there are also rotten members of (the) press similar to other professions like in (the Philippine National Police) and most especially among politicians, to simplify media killing as due to corruption in (the) press is to gloss over (the) fact that media killings happen due to the still prevalent culture of impunity," the NPC said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

The NPC added that such branding of the media would justify more attacks against journalists in general.

"On (the) part of (the) NPC, we have been tireless in ridding its roster of hao shiaos and in instilling a culture of responsibility and professionalism in its rank," the NPC said. "Hao shiao" is a term used in media to refer to media workers who attend press conferences expecting to be paid and those who use their being in the media for perks.

The NUJP also expressed its disappointment following the Duterte camp's previous pronouncements that he would push for the enactment of the Freedom of Information law and would form a special task force to investigate media killings.

"Alas, it seems we were wrong. Or are we to be again treated to the excuse that it was all a joke and we need to be more discerning about your pronouncements? Murder is no joke. Neither is press freedom," Rosauro said.






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