GMA Affirms Press Freedom; President Speaks at Opening of Publish Asia 2007 Efforts to Push Democracy, Human Rights Cited

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Byline: DAVID CAGAHASTIAN

President Arroyo yesterday vowed to uphold freedom of the Philippine press which she said has the power and responsibility to promote national renewal and reform.

In her speech during the Publish Asia 2007 conference held at the historic Manila Hotel, Mrs. Arroyo cited the government's efforts to uphold democracy and human rights, especially freedom of the press and expression, amid unsolved killings of journalists and activists allegedly involving the military.

"There is much to do towards a more modern, just and prosperous nation, and the press has its share of the task," Mrs. Arroyo told foreign and local newspaper executives participating in the Publish Asia conference, an annual gathering of newspaper executives in Asia to discuss trends in journalism and the publishing business.

"You come from different countries in Asia with different kinds of political systems, different levels of development, different social organizations, different histories -- but in all the countries you do your business, the press has the power to change the nation through information and persuasion," she said.

This year's Publish Asia conference has the theme "Reinventing for Today's Business, Creating for Tomorrow's Challenges." The conference is attended by more than 400 delegates from leading newspapers in Asia.

Mrs. Arroyo cited her government's respect for human rights and democracy in the country, amid criticisms from international human rights advocates and local militant groups on the unsolved killings in the country despite a vaunted government campaign against human rights violations and political killings.

"Speaking of crime, let me take this opportunity to once again deplore extrajudicial killings, would it be from the left or right, especially against journalists. The Philippines is the most democratic country in the region and I have no tolerance for human rights violations," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo said press freedom is upheld by authorities in the country, though "many times, we don't agree with the members of the media and what they report."

In her speech, Arroyo outlined the gains made by her administration, emphasized the importance of the media in bridging the gap between the public and the government, and acknowledged that her administration has not always seen eye-to-eye with the local press. …