Duterte blames corrupt journalism for media killings

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President-elect Rodrigo Duterte hit media corruption in the country and said journalists who engage in corrupt practices are not exempted from assassination.

Blame corrupt journalism for the media killings, Duterte said in a press conference called on Tuesday to present his Cabinet members in Davao City.

“Kaya namamatay yan, sinasabi ko karamihan yan nababayaran na o sobrahan nila ang atake,” Duterte added.

[Translation: You know why they are killed; most of them are on the take or they over criticize.]

Asked how he would deal with media killings in the country, Duterte said journalists were to be blamed if they were killed. He said journalists who take bribes deserve to die, adding that media corruption remains prevalent in the country.

A report by the International Federation of Journalists, Journalists and Media Staff Killed 1990-2015: 25 years of contribution towards Safer Journalism shows that Asia-Pacific region is home to the three of the top ten worst countries for journalist killings over the past 25 years. It cites the Philippines as the second deadliest country worldwide with 146 killings in that period.

"You want the truth? 'Yun ang truth. There is still corruption sa inyong side [media]... Karamihan ganun, kasi kung journalist ka lang na tama, wala namang gagalaw sayo especially if it is true," he said.

[Translation: You want the truth? That is the truth. There is still corruption in your side. They are mostly like that, because if you are journalist following the ethics, no one will harm you as long as what you report is true.]

Related: Why the Philippines is deadly for journalists

Duterte said the freedom of expression provisions in the Constitution may not necessarily protect a journalist if he disrespects or defames a person.

Duterte recalled the case of Davao-based radio commentator Juan ‘Jun’ Pala, as an example of a journalist involved in corrupt activities. Pala suffered nine gunshot wounds and died upon arrival in a hospital in 2003.

'Yan si [Jun] Pala binibigyan harap-harapan, sasabihin komolekta kami tapos sa kabila babanatan mo. That is the best example kung bakit namamatay itong mga journalist... I do not diminish his memory but that he was a rotten son of a b****. He deserved it," he said.

[Translation: Pala was given money, but he still attacked them. That is the best example why journalists are killed. I do not diminish his memory but that he was a rotten son of a b****.]

Duterte became mayor of Davao City for seven terms, totalling more than 22 years. He also served as vice mayor and congressman for the city. During his political stint, he has been accused of having links with vigilante death squads.

NUJP: No justification for taking life

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned Duterte's justification of murder of journalists.

In a statement published hours after Duterte's press conference, the group slammed the president-elect’s "crass pronouncement.”

It said his statements not only tarnished the memories of all the media people that were killed, but it also served as a declaration to silence the media — both individual journalists and media institutions.

The group did not deny that corruption is among the pressing issues of the industry, but said it is a different story to present it as a justification for taking the life of a person.

"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," the statement read.

"Murder is no joke. Neither is press freedom. Be that as it may, the independent Philippine media will not be cowed from fulfilling its duty to act as the people’s watchdog," the NUJP added.

Related: FOCAP says journalists may be in danger after Duterte's 'sweeping' statement

Media killings in the Philippines

The Maguindanao massacre, which happened in November 2009 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, remains to be the single deadliest event for journalists anywhere in the world. The mass murder killed 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists.

The trial of 197 accused in the massacre started in January 2010, but so far, there have been no convictions.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility recorded 152 media killings since April 1986. Thirty two journalists were killed under the administration of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III.

The most recent victim was Alex Balcoba, a reporter of People's Brigada, a tabloid newspaper in Manila. He was shot in the head with a .45 caliber pistol outside his stall in Quiapo on May 27. He was rushed to the hospital and died soon after. It is still unclear if his killing was related to his work as a journalist.