NUJP, others denounce Duterte’s remarks on killing of journalists

Just a day after Mr. Duterte's proclamation, another journalist, Alex Balcoba, was shot dead while he was manning his store near the Quiapo Church in Manila.

Mr. Duterte in his freewheeling remarks at his press conference hinted that journalists who were getting killed were corrupt.

"Just because you're a journalist doesn't mean you're exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch," he said.

"Freedom of expression won't save you," Mr. Duterte said. "The Constitution cannot help you kapag binaboy mo ang isang tao [if you messed with a person]," he added.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Mr. Duterte's statement was "appalling," as "he has declared open season to silence the media."

The NUJP added that it "does not gloss over the fact that corruption is among the most pressing problems faced by the media. Nor do we deny that this could be the reason for a number of 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."

It also cited cases of individuals seeking revenge from journalists "soiling their reputations."

In many instances of journalist killings, the accused are from the government and face allegations of corruption.

"Let us just cite a few of the more prominent cases -- the murders of Edgar Damalerio of Pagadian City, Marlene Esperat of Tacurong City, and Gerry Ortega of Puerto Princesa City, and, of course, the most heinous of all, the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, of which 32 of the 58 victims were media workers, making it not only the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history but the single deadliest attack on journalists ever," the NUJP said.

The group reminded Mr. Duterte that "leadership... carries weight and what leaders say, right or wrong, seriously or in jest, will resound with their followers."

"Murder is no joke. Neither is press freedom," it added.

In an e-mail to the media, Mr. Ortega's daughter Michaella said the family was "incensed by the hasty and crass generalizations made about murdered journalists in the country."

"Doc Gerry Ortega was killed for his courage and integrity. He was murdered precisely because he was honorable. He fought for social justice. He stood up against mining in Palawan. He exposed corruption in the provincial government, which included the misuse of billions of pesos from the Malampaya fund," the statement said. For its part, the Center for International Law, Inc., said Mr. Duterte's remark was "not only insensitive [but also] shows a cynical attitude towards what is a serious concern to the international community and a scourge to any society founded on democratic ideals." "In a country that has become one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists, it will only serve to embolden, rather than deter, those who kill without compunction." Mr. Duterte in the course of his news conference said, pointing at his audience of journalists, "May sundalo ba diyan? Paki-Armalite nga ito [Is there a soldier there? Please Armalite them]."

His spokesmen were left the next day explaining Mr. Duterte's remarks.

Salvador S. Panelo said that Mr. Duterte did not mean to endorse media killing.

"What he was saying [on Tuesday night] is when a journalist is killed, it doesn't mean that he was killed as a journalist. That person is killed because he has done something wrong to another fellow man," spokesman Salvador S. Panelo, who served as counsel for Andal S. Ampatuan, Jr., told reporters in Davao City as aired on ANC.

Source: Bworld Online