‘Rody comment on media killings taken out of context’
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 2, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – An aide of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte yesterday claimed that the next chief executive’s much-criticized statement on media killings was “taken out of context.”

Duterte drew flak from media groups after saying that some of the slain journalists had received pay-offs or had criticized excessively.

He also scored corruption in media, adding that being a journalist does not exempt one from assassination.  

“You want the truth? That’s the truth. There is still corruption on your side,” Duterte said in a press conference last Tuesday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned the incoming president’s statement, saying it was an effort to silence the media.

The group maintained that nothing, not even corruption, could justify murder.

Peter Laviña, spokesman for Duterte’s transition team, defended the president-elect’s statement, saying it should be viewed as a reminder that there is also corruption in the media.  

“Again and as usual, Rody Duterte was taken out of context, misinterpreted and misunderstood,” Laviña said in a Facebook post.

Laviña said Duterte’s pronouncement that most slain journalists are corrupt or involved in shady deals was “based on his own assessment of those killed in Davao City and not on the national scale.”

“Certainly, Duterte has no personal knowledge on each and every case of media killings in many parts of the country,” Laviña declared.  

He said Duterte has vowed to create a task force to address media killings, and  is also planning to tap a special prosecutor to focus on cases involving the killings of media workers.

“In the context of Duterte’s campaign against corruption, his remarks indeed should be seen to mean a reminder or a message that there is also corruption in mass media,” Laviña said.  

He said Duterte saw the corruption during the recent election, “when headlines, for instance, were being bumped off to give way to paid black propaganda masquerading as news items.”

Media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said it is taking exception to Duterte’s statement, noting that journalists have been killed for other reasons, including exposing corruption in the government.

“Because a significant number of those accused of killing journalists are local officials, as well as police and military personnel, the killings also suggest that the slain had been successful in exposing official wrongdoing and collusion with criminal groups,” CMFR said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, CMFR has never discounted the possibility that some of the journalists killed since 1986 were corrupt, or had been irresponsible. But we have always held that no one deserves to be killed for either offense,” it added.

CMFR noted that there are ways to address abuses by members of the media like reporting them to media organizations.

“President-elect Duterte was correct in saying that irresponsible, biased, paid-for reporting and comment do lead to a journalist’s being killed. But the killing of anyone is nevertheless still a crime, and it doesn’t matter whether the victim is a journalist or not,” CMFR said.  

“As president of the Philippines, Mayor Duterte would hopefully be more circumspect. The killing of journalists is after all not something to be made light of,” it added.

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