President-elect sends wrong signal on impunity in the Philippines

Bangkok, June 1, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s comments during a press conference justifying the killing of journalists. Duterte made the remarks in response to a reporter’s question on Tuesday about how his government would handle cases of media murders, according to news reports.

“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said, according to an Agence France-Presse report. He claimed that many killed journalists were either corrupt or had “done something” that warranted their murders, according to press accounts. He also warned that journalists who defamed others in their news reporting would not necessarily be protected under the law from violent reprisals.

“The only way to address impunity in the woefully high number of unresolved murders of journalists in the Philippines is through the courts,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte’s shocking remarks apparently excusing extrajudicial killings threaten to make the Philippines into a killing field for journalists. We strongly urge him to retract his comments and to signal that he intends to protect, not target, the press.”

Duterte, a long-serving mayor of the southern city of Davao, was elected president in a landslide on May 9. He campaigned on an anti-crime platform that threatened to summarily kill suspected criminals without due process of law. The tough-talking politician has been linked in news reports to the killing by death squad of as many as 1,400 suspected criminals in Davao during his mayorship. He is expected to formally assume the presidency on June 30.

The Philippines ranks fourth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and the killers go free.