Rodrigo Duterte, president-elect of the Philippines, last week made comments suggesting journalists killed likely deserved their fate. Representatives of the United Nations on Monday sharply criticized Duterte's comments. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Duterte
MANILA, June 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations on Monday urged Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to immediately "stop instigating deadly violence," particularly against journalists.
Duterte last Tuesday said there was justification in the killing of corrupt journalists days after Alex Balcoba, a Manila crime reporter, was shot dead.
"Most journalists killed are corrupt ... Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch," Duterte said during a press conference. "Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong."
The Philippines is considered one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists by organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists. Duterte has previously made inflammatory comments, including one about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary.
"You won't be killed if you don't do anything wrong," Duterte said, suggesting victims were to blame.
Duterte's comments were sharply condemned by U.N. Special Rapporteur on summary executions Christof Heyns and U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye.
"A message of this nature amounts to incitement to violence and killing, in a nation already ranked as the second-deadliest country for journalists," Heyns, who is based in South Africa, said in a statement. "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."
Duterte, 71, who served as the mayor of Davao City for 22 years, ran on an anti-crime platform that appeals to the country's upper and middle classes who fear rising criminality. He said he would establish a ruthless administration that would eradicate crime syndicates in the first six months of his tenure. Duterte is scheduled to be sworn in as president June 30.
Kaye said Duterte's comment could encourage someone who is "who is displeased by the work of a journalist or an activist" to "attack or kill them without fear of sanction."
"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," Kaye, who is based in the United States, said in a statement. "This position is even more disturbing when one considers that Philippines is still struggling to ensure accountability to notorious cases of violence against journalists."
Duterte has also been criticized for promoting intentional lethal use of force for promising to pay bounties to police and military officials for turning in drug lords "dead or alive."
"The president-elect fools no one when he says he is not calling on people to be killed," Heyns said.