GENEVA (6 June 2016) – Two United Nations independent experts on summary executions, and on freedom of expression today urged Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to stop instigating deadly violence immediately. The experts strongly condemned Mr. Duterte’s recent statements suggesting that journalists are not exempt for assassination.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Duterte reportedly stated that most journalists killed in the country have done something wrong. ‘You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong,’ the President-elect said, suggesting that victims were partly to blame for their fate.
“A message of this nature amounts to incitement to violence and killing, in a nation already ranked as the second-deadliest country for journalists,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Cristof Heyns. “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.”
For the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom opinion and expression, David Kaye, “justifying the killing of journalists on the basis of how they conduct their professional activities 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.”
“This position is even more disturbing when one considers that Philippines is still struggling to ensure accountability to notorious cases of violence against journalists, such as the Maguindanao massacre,” the human rights expert added.
Mr. Duterte is further reported to have questioned the legal guarantees to journalists who are perceived to have made defamatory comments. ‘That can’t be just freedom of speech. The constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person,’ the President-elect stated.
“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,” Mr. Kaye stressed.
The President-elect has also been reported as promising to pay bounties to police and military officials for every drug lord they turn in. ‘I’m not saying that you kill them, but the order is dead or alive,” Mr. Duterte reportedly said in a televised news conference.
“Talk of ‘dead or alive’ has no role to play in any state that claims to uphold human rights in law enforcement,” Special Rapporteur Heyns stressed, while recalling the limits imposed by international instruments on the conduct of law enforcement forces.
“Intentional lethal use of force may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life and not for common policing objectives,” he said. “The President-elect fools no one when he says he is not calling on people to be killed.”