Duterte on hot seat over comments vs journalists

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Friday, 3 June 2016 - Last Updated on February 5, 2017

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is facing mounting criticism over his stance on journalist killings and his catcall to a female reporter during a press conference.

On Thursday night, the tough-talking Duterte dared journalists to stop covering him in response to the call by Reporters Without Borders and local media groups to boycott his press conferences.

“Kill journalism in this country. Stop journalism in this country, if you are worth your salt. If not, then I will think lowly of you. [That would mean] that you are like cowards,” Duterte told reporters, clarifying later that he meant stop media coverages of him in Davao City.

“I was saying —– do not threaten me. I said I’m ready to lose the presidency, my honor or my life. Just do not f*** with me,” Duterte thundered.

Duterte had earned the ire of media groups for saying that there was justification for killing journalists in the country who took bribes or engaged in corrupt activities.

He was responding to a question on how he would address the issue of journalist killings in the Philippines, which is the second most dangerous in the world during the past 25 years.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Duterte’s statement was “appalling” and was a signal fire to an “open season to silence the media.”

The group reminded the President-elect of dozens of journalists who were slain in the line of duty for telling the truth.

“Let us just cite a few of the more prominent cases — the murders of Edgar Damalerio of Pagadian City, Marlene Esperat of Tacurong City, and Gerry Ortega of Puerto Princesa City, and, of course, the most heinous of all, the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, of which 32 of the 58 victims were media workers, making it not only the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history but the single deadliest attack on journalists ever,” the NUJP said.

Reacting to the brewing firestorm against the President-elect, spokesperson Peter Lavina said Duterte’s statement was taken out of context by the media.

Duterte is also on the hot seat for catcalling GMA 7 reporter Mariz Umali on Tuesday night, drawing criticisms from journalists and women’s rights groups.

The President-elect reportedly interrupted a question from Umali with wolf whistling and a short serenade, an act described by Umali’s husband and reporter Raffy Tima as “wrong in so many levels.”

But Duterte defended his action. “Whistling is not a sexual thing… You can’t stop me, that’s my freedom of expression

Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the catcall to Umali was a form of compliment.

Asked for her comment on the issue, Umali said she is not expecting an apology from Duterte.

“It may have been improper from a President-elect. But, of course, we will continue to do our job. We are not expecting any apology from him personally,” Umali said.

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