U.N. special rapporteurs condemn Duterte's stand on assassination of journalists

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Two independent special rapporteurs of the United Nations' Human Rights System have condemned President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's statements last week that corrupt journalists are not exempted from assassination.

In separate comments on Monday, U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on summary executions, said Duterte’s statements provide the excuse for violent attacks against journalists by those who feel offended by them.

As far as Duterte is concerned, there are three kinds of journalists – the first are the honest crusaders; the second are those in the payroll of private companies; and the third are the “lowlife” who demand money in exchange for stopping exposes.

Read: Duterte stands by statement on media killings

"Kayong mga [You] lowlife … you can die for all I care,” he said last week.

"It's not because you're a journalist na [that] you're exempted from assassination. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you've done something wrong to the guy,” Duterte said. “The constitution can no longer help you pag-binaboy mo ang isang tao [if you treat a person like a pig]."

"Kung journalist ka naman na tama, wala naman gagalaw sa iyo," he added.

[Translation: "If you are a good journalist, no one will touch you."]

Kaye said justifying the killing of journalists based on how they do their job “can be understood as a permissive signal to potential killers that the murder of journalists is acceptable in certain circumstances and would not be punished.”

“Such provocative messages indicate to any person who is displeased by the work of a journalist, or an activist, for example, that they can attack or kill them without fear of sanction,” Kaye said.

Heyns said Duterte's message "amounts to incitement to violence and killing."

"These comments are irresponsible in the extreme, and unbecoming of any leader, let alone someone who is to assume the position of the leader of a country that calls itself democratic," he added.

Related: NUJP says there is no justification for taking life

However, the president-elect's spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte's statements were taken out of context.

He said the statements do not mean that Mr. Duterte is endorsing or encouraging the killing of corrupt journalists.

"What he was saying last night (May 31) is that when a journalist is killed, it doesn’t mean that he’s being killed as a journalist. That person is being killed because he has done something wrong to another fellow man," Panelo said.

Panelo did not immediately respond to CNN Philippines' request for reactions to the rapporteurs’ comments.

Kaye and Heyns work for the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council — the largest body of experts in the U.N. Human Rights System.

According to the U.N., those who work for the body do so voluntarily. They are not U.N. staff and do not receive salary for their work.

In one of his recent outbursts against his critics, Duterte slammed the U.N. for allegedly trying to impose its “code of conduct” on him but could not even stop the slaughter of people in the Middle East and Africa.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong contributed to this report.