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MANILA, Philippines -- A media group on Thursday said there was “little reason” to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, in a statement, noted that “all over the world, governments of all stripes and ideologies continue to try to suppress this freedom along with the freedom of expression; not when media workers continue to be murdered, assaulted, threatened, harassed even as they see their rights to welfare and safe working conditions violated by media owners seeking more ways to cut costs and maximize profits.”
At home, it said, “the Philippines continues to mock its claim to being a democracy, unable to shake off the infamy of being the third most dangerous country for journalists, next to conflict-ridden Iraq and Somalia where most victims are casualties of war” and blamed “government inaction and apathy” for the impunity with which media murders are carried out.
The group also slammed President Benigno Aquino III, under whose watch 11 of the 151 media workers murdered since 1986 died.
“We have a president who had the gall to ask advertisers to shun media outfits he considers prone to sensationalism, who blames media for his administration’s shortcomings and demands they highlight only the positive,” the NUJP said.
It also disputed Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, who credited government efforts for the Philippines’ improved standing on advocacy group Freedom House’s press freedom index.
The Philippines was in 88th place, tying with Burkina Faso. Last year it was 93rd. It was also ranked highest in press freedom in Southeast Asia, with a rating of 42, up from last year’s 46.
However, the country remained classified as “partly free.”
While acknowledging that “more needs to be done to further improve the country’s rating,” Carandang also said the country’s improved ranking “represents a recognition of the Philippine government’s initiatives to strengthen press freedom."
However, the NUJP said that, “so long as not a single mastermind in any of the 151 media murders since 1986 is arrested, prosecuted and convicted, you have no right to claim credit for anything.”
The group reiterated its assertion that “the murders of media workers, just as all other extrajudicial killings, are a matter of State accountability.”
“If the Philippine press remains free despite all the threats against it, it is not because of government but because the press insists on being free,” it added.