MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte blasted media groups on Thursday for condemning his earlier comments that appeared to justify the killing of journalists if they are corrupt or overly critical. He refused to apologize and dared reporters to carry out a threat to boycott his news conferences.
"Don't threaten me, boycott, boycott!" Duterte said at a late-night news conference in Davao city, where he has been mayor for 22 years. "Go ahead and boycott, damn you!"
International and local media groups have expressed outrage over Duterte's remark on Tuesday that many journalists have been killed in the Philippines because they were corrupt or criticized others too much. Reporters Without Borders urged local media to boycott his news conferences until he issues a public apology.
Duterte, 71, whose six-year term starts June 30, said he would not apologize, using an expletive.
He said he would survive even if journalists boycott him because he could ask the state-run TV network to cover his activities.
"I'm telling the networks, do not come here. I do not need you," he said, threatening to order his Cabinet members not to speak to journalists who are not from the state-run network.
At the end of the profanity-filled news conference, Duterte said he would end his vulgarity after he is sworn in as president, promising that the country will see a "metamorphosis."
According to the International Federation of Journalists, the Philippines has been the second-deadliest country for journalists since 1990, behind only war-torn Iraq.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said Duterte's remarks on Tuesday "apparently excusing extrajudicial killings threaten to make the Philippines into a killing field for journalists." It said the country ranks fourth on its impunity index, which spotlights countries where the killers of journalists go unpunished.
Shawn Crispin, a CPJ senior Southeast Asia representative, urged Duterte to retract his comments and signal that he intends to protect, not target, the media.
Local media groups also widely condemned the remarks.
"Mr. Duterte's crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and memories of all 176 of our colleagues who have been murdered since 1986," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Tuesday. "He has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media."
Asked on Tuesday to comment on the unsolved killings of journalists, Duterte said many of those slain were paid to take sides on issues or had overly criticized people who couldn't tolerate personal attacks.
"Just because you're a journalist (doesn't mean) you're exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch," Duterte said. "Your freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong with the guy."
Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.