The United Kingdom’s top diplomat in the Philippines said that there is no justification to have journalists killed, regardless “how much you disagree with them.”
In a report by the Philippine Star, Ambassador Asif Ahmad was quoted as saying: “There’s no excuse for journalists, however much you disagree with them, to have them killed and get away with it.”
He reiterated his country’s commitment to put a stop to media killings.
“The UK standards are unchanged. We are totally committed to the elimination and condemnation of the killing of journalists in going about their work,” the ambassador reportedly told the media during the reception for Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday at his residence on Thursday night, May 2.
Ahmad also opined that the Philippines, it having a “terrible” record of media violence, needs to improve on protecting media practitioners from violent attacks.
In the last few days, the issue of media violence surfaced again after President-elect Rodrigo Duterte expressed that corrupt journalists are legitimate targets of assassination.
The statement, which was seen by many as an endorsement of media killings, was met with widespread criticism. Some quarters even regarded it as the ultimate form of censorship.
Incoming presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who lawyered for the Ampatuans accused of killing 58 people in what is considered as the single deadliest event for journalists in history, clarified that Duterte is not endorsing media killings.
"Of course not, he is not endorsing killings for the journalists. He is very protective of the rights of the journalists to express their opinion, regardless of whether or not this is in opposition to the policies he has made," Panelo said.
He clarified that what Duterte meant was that if a person committed something wrong, then he or she has to pay for it.
As a response, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that Duterte should not have given a sweeping remark that many of those killed journalists were corrupt.
Their open letter stated that the group took “exception to [Duterte’s] sweeping generalization that ‘karamihan’ [many] of the fallen were done in because they were corrupt, for the simple reason that this is just not so.”
While the group acknowledged that corruption could be the reason why some journalists are murdered, they maintained that nothing can ever justify murder.
“But even if it were, we maintain that nothing, not corruption, and certainly not truth-telling, can ever justify murder,” the NUJP said.
“That, we presume, is why we have laws and a government to ensure these laws are obeyed and, most importantly, to ensure the protection of each and every citizen. We are sure you agree that journalists, both the good and the bad, are citizens entitled to equal protection of the law,” the group added.
The NUJP also made an appeal to the incoming President: “We sincerely hope you will break this chain of apathy and that our fallen colleagues and all other victims of the culture of impunity will finally begin to get justice.”
“It is with this hope that we will ask you again and again over the next six years about murdered journalists, regardless of what they were and why they were killed,” the NUJP said.
Based on available data, a total of 174 media practitioners have been killed since the restoration of democracy in 1986.