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Industrial rights key to press freedom, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - May 4, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has reiterated the role of the trade union movement in overcoming many of the obstacles to press freedom faced by journalists in the Philippines, at a celebration to mark World Press Freedom Day in Manila yesterday.

The remarks were made at a roundtable discussion organised by IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which brought together media practitioners, government representatives, civil society organisations and academics to assess the many challenges faced by journalists and the media in the Philippines.

Key speakers at the forum identified the legal and ethical dimensions of press freedom. They noted that a failure to uphold the law and principles of ethical reporting has contributed to the country's poor record in punishing the killers of media workers, with 147 such workers killed since the end of military rule in 1986.

"As the struggle for journalists' working rights and press freedom are inextricably linked, so too are democracy and a free, fearless and independent media," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The achievement of true press freedom in the Philippines and elsewhere depends on journalists enjoying the decent working conditions and fair pay that underpin a quality media. The efforts of the NUJP and its members in this struggle cannot be understated."

NUJP Welfare Commission head Sonny Fernandez identified the key industrial struggles of Philippines media workers at large organisations such as ABS-CBN and Radyo Mindanao Network (RMN), where workers who organised colleagues for improved conditions were fired last year.

"On World Press Freedom Day, we are reminded that our fight to end impunity and achieve justice in the workplace is a truly global fight, and is reflected in the experiences of our colleagues around the globe," NUJP Secretary General Rowena Paraan said.

The forum was also addressed by Manolo Quezon III, of the communications and strategy office of President Benigno Aquino III, who outlined the measures being taken by the President and the Department of Justice to address extrajudicial killings of journalists in the Philippines.

"Every extrajudicial killing is an indictment or failing of the state," he said.

Quezon also discussed the progress in enacting the country's Freedom of Information Bill. Enactment within the term of the current Congress is among key demands of the IFJ Action Plan delivered to President Aquino upon his inauguration on June 30, 2010.

"The office of the President should have no alternative but to support a Freedom of Information law - it is guaranteed by the Philippines Constitution," Paraan said. "It is a right, not a privilege."

A delegation of journalist trade unionists representing Indonesia's Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) and IFJ Asia-Pacific offered their support to assist the NUJP and other civil society groups to continue their campaigning to end impunity and achieve fair pay and working conditions.

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