True to his promise of beginning a reign of “bloody murder” on assuming office, Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president-elect, said “corrupt” journalists deserve to be assassinated.
The controversial new leader made the shocking remarks while responding to a question at a press conference about how his administration would protect freedom of expression and journalism.
"Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a b****," Duterte said. "Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong.”
Understandably, his statement outraged journalists everywhere, especially in the Philippines.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines criticized Duterte’s comments.
Nothing justifies the murder of journalists!— NUJP (@nujp) May 31, 2016
Mr. Duterte’s crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and... https://t.co/lo8nXg4iV3
"We were hopeful...that we were on the cusp of a new era when freedom of the press and of expression would be respected, defended and promoted beyond lip service,” the NUJP said in a statement. “Alas, it seems we were wrong. Or are we to be again treated to the excuse that it was all a joke and we need to be more discerning about your pronouncements?"
The question in the press conference came after a crime journalist, Alex Balcoba, was shot dead in Manila on May 28. The victim was reportedly the second journalist to be murdered in the country this year, and the 34th since 2010.
The Philippines ranks as the third most deadly country for journalists after Iraq and Syria, according to the 2015 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom organization.
Despite making a string of offensive and incendiary comments while campaigning, Duterte won the presidential election in May by a landslide.
The foul-mouthed politician first made headlines when he made light of the 1989 gang rape and murder of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill.
His unprecedented ascend to victory is mainly attributed to his impassioned war-against-crime promises.
"He is very popular here. One of the reasons he is so popular is his crackdown on crime," said Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay of Duterte’s reputation in his home city Davao. "This used to be regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in Philippines, but now it's regarded perhaps as one of the safest.”