Manila, June 2 (IANS) Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte will not apologise for his controversial remarks justifying the killing of corrupt journalists, his spokesperson said on Thursday.
Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s spokesperson, told Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN, the question of apology arises when something wrong has been done and added the president-elect’s remarks were misinterpreted.
Duterte, who will take office on June 30, triggered a wave of criticism after his remarks in a press conference on Tuesday that many of the journalists, who had been killed in the country in recent years, had been murdered because they were corrupt.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination,” Duterte told reporters in the southern Davao city.
On Wednesday, non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the Philippine media to boycott the Duterte administration’s news conferences until the leader issues a public apology and also asked the media to press lawsuits against him, EFE news reported.
“We urge organisations that represent the media to not overlook comments of this kind and to bring lawsuits,” said Benjamin Ismail, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“Not only are these statements unworthy of a president but they could also be regarded as violations of the law on defamation or even the law on inciting hatred and violence,” he added.
Duterte has also been criticised by other Philippine media organisations, family members of the murdered journalists and the outgoing government, as well as prominent politicians and lawyers.
The National Union of Journalist in the Philippines (NJUP) said it was “appalling” that Duterte should “justify the murder of journalists in the country by playing the corruption card”.
Murders of Filipino journalists who criticise local politicians or investigate corruption are frequent in the country.
Seven journalists were killed in the Philippines in 2015, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In its latest report, the IFJ said the Philippines had the second largest number of journalists murdered since 1990, surpassed only by Iraq.