Reporters Without Borders calls for boycott of Duterte press conferences
MANILA - For the National Press Club (NPC), President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has announced an open season to kill journalists after he released a statement that journalists are not exempted from assassination.
During his press conference in Davao City, Monday, Duterte said "Just because you are a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you're a son of a b****."
In an interview with DZMM, NPC President Paul Gutierrez said it is a sweeping categorization that can "embolden more attacks against journalists."
"Lalong titindi ang pangamba natin na baka magkaroon 'ika nga ng open season sa lalo pang pang-aabuso sa ating karapatan sa pamamahayag with that kind of statement na parang ang ating presidente, lumalabas na binabalewala ang malaki nating problama sa media killing."
According to a report from International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Philippines is the world's second most dangerous place for journalists. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) states that 174 journalists have been killed since 1986.
In 2009, 32 journalists were murdered in Maguindanao in what was dubbed as the world's deadliest attack on media workers.
Gutierrez admitted that there are members of the media who are corrupt.
The president-elect earlier said, "Kaya namamatay kasi karamihan diyan nabayaran na. They take sides or sobrahan ang atake, getting personal."
But Gutierrez explained, "Ang nakakabahalang mensahe dito ni Pangulong Rody Duterte ay simple lang: It's alright na patayin ang ganyang media kasi in the end of the day, deserving sila dahil sila'y corrupt."
"Ang dating talaga sa tao ay talagang 'pag napatay ang (nasa) media ay deserving siya dahil siya ay corrupt."
He added, "parang ito 'yung ''di bale napatay 'yan kasi holdaper naman iyan,' ''di bale napatay iyan kasi drug pusher naman iyan.' Sa ating hanay, 'talagang sigurong dapat nabaril ang media na iyan kasi corrupt iyan.'"
The NPC president also said that there is now a handy excuse for murders related to media workers.
"'Yung mga pulitiko partikular saka 'yung mga na-expose ang katiwalian ng media, malamang matutuwa pa sila, 'madali na tayo makakahanap ng lusot ngayon, sasabihin lang natin kay Mr. President [na] corrupt naman iyan kaya siguro napatay iyan.'"
He reminded the incoming president that there are proper mechanisms regarding erring journalists.
"Kasuhan mo ng libel, ireklamo mo sa kanyang mga respective organizations, ipatanggal mo sa pinagsusulatan niya," he said.
Duterte's statement caused an uproar among media groups.
The NUJP said that the president-elect needs to be briefed on media killings while other veteran journalists like Inday Espina-Varona expressed their disdain over the statement.
The NUJP said it is appalling that Duterte justifies the murder of members of the media "by playing the corruption card."
While NUJP does not dismiss the idea that corruption may be behind several of the media killings, the organization maintained that "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."
Meanwhile, Gutierrez said that he nearly choked upon hearing Duterte's statement.
He said the Duterte camp earlier promised a safe environment for the press.
Call for boycott
This, as international journalist group Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday urged the Philippine media to boycott the press conferences of Duterte.
The Paris, France-based group said journalists should boycott Duterte's news conferences until he issues a formal, public apology.
In a statement, Reporters Without Borders said it is outraged by Duterte's comment on Tuesday that corrupt journalists are legitimate targets of murder.
Benjamin Ismail, head of Reporters Without Borders' Asia-Pacific desk, said Duterte's statements are unbecoming of a president.
“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 Ismail.
“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 organizations that represent the media to not overlook comments of this kind and to bring lawsuits," he added.
'Taken out of context'
Meanwhile, spokespersons for Duterte said the president-elect's statement was "taken out of context."
"Again and as usual, Rody Duterte was taken out of context, misinterpreted and misunderstood," Peter Laviña said in a statement.
Lawyer Salvador Panelo said Duterte is not endorsing violence against members of the media.
"He is not endorsing that. He's very protective of the rights of the journalists to express their opinion regardless of whether or not it is in opposition with the policy he makes," Panelo said.