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IFJ denounces president's description of media as "freest in the world"

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 11 September 2008 IFJ media release:

President's Comments About Free Media in Philippines Denounced

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports the outrage expressed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, at President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's description of the Philippines' media as "the freest in the whole world".

President Arroyo made the comment in a speech on September 10, according to the NUJP.

"One of the most dangerous countries in the world for practising journalists is the Philippines, where 60 journalists have been murdered because of their work since President Arroyo came to power in 2001," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"The suggestion that media in the Philippines is the most free in the world is to insult the families of those murdered journalists."

More journalists have been killed during President Arroyo's administration than under any other president, including the late Ferdinand Marcos who held the country in dictatorship for 14 years, the NUJP said.

Five journalists have been killed in the Philippines so far in 2008.

"A significant contributor to the culture of impunity regarding attacks on journalists in the Philippines is the failure of the police and law enforcers to pursue and solve crimes of violence against journalists, allowing the perpetrators to remain free to intimidate more journalists and their families," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

On August 31, the families of four journalists in the Philippines received text messages claiming the journalists had been in an accident in Capiz, and three had died. The journalists issued a statement the next day to denounce the text message as false, "uncalled for and malicious", particularly following the murder of two Radio Mindanao Network journalists, Martin Roxas and Dennis Cuesta, in separate incidents in early August.

In a statement on September 10, the NUJP praised journalists in the Philippines for continuing to display a courageous commitment to "their duty of delivering information that is crucial to empowering our people as they make decisions about their individual and collective lives".

The IFJ stands in solidarity with a statement from the NUJP by its President, Joe Torres Jnr, which said: "Indeed, if the Philippine media are, as Mrs Arroyo describes them, the 'freest in the world', it is no thanks to her or her administration but to the continued vigilance of the independent press and journalists and the people they serve."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries worldwide.

For further information on the text messages recently sent to four journalists, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96718

For further information on the Cuesta case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96015

For further information on the Roxas case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95964

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