A group of civil society organizations has demanded that Apple remove games from its App Store that promote violence and killings commonplace in the Philippines' war on drugs (via Reuters).
The games in question, which the group said violated Apple's own guidelines, include characters based on Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his national police chief, Ronaldo "Bato" dela Rosa, who engage criminals in gun battles and fistfights.
"These games valorise and normalise the emerging tyranny of Duterte's presidency and his government's disregard for human rights principles," the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) said in an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The group named 131 organizations from several countries as supportive of the October 10 complaint to Apple, with groups working on human rights, youth and drug policy reform among them.
They urged the tech giant to issue an apology for hosting such "insensitive content". Apple has yet to respond to the letter.
Thousands have been killed in Duterte's war on drugs, a 15-month-long campaign that has caused international alarm. Human rights groups say state-sponsored executions are taking place, but authorities vehemently reject the claim.
Games available in the App Store that have come in for criticism include Fighting Crime 2, Duterte Knows Kung Fu, Duterte Running Man Challenge, Tsip Bato, and Duterte Vs Zombies. The civil rights groups said the games "might seem harmless and fun" but are offensive and distasteful because of the reality and prevalence of state-sanctioned murder with impunity.
Ben Joseph Banta, a managing partner of Ranida Games, which developed Tsip Bato, told Reuters in an email that the aim of its game was "not to promote violence", but that it sought to discourage drug use with the use of banner messages opposing drugs that were visible to players.
"We understand the human rights groups and we're very much open to make changes in the game in order to remove the stigma that the game is promoting violence," said Banta.
On Thursday, The Guardian reported that President Duterte had ordered police to end all operations in his war on drugs. In a televised speech he said he hoped a shift to target big networks would satisfy "bleeding hearts" and interfering western states fixated on the high death toll in his brutal crackdown.
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