press  freedom  alive  in  rp  -  gma

MARCH 28, 2007 (STAR) By Evelyn Macairan - Press freedom remains alive in the Philippines and the media continue to play an influential role in bridging the gap between the people and the government, President Arroyo said yesterday amid criticisms on the failure of her administration to stop the killings of journalists in the country.

In her speech at the opening of Publish Asia 2007 at the Manila Hotel, Mrs. Arroyo reiterated her condemnation of the unexplained killings of journalists and activists, saying she is determined "to break this cycle of violence once and for all."

She said her presence at the event was "our way of saying that we Filipinos believe in the freedom of the press."

"We embrace the central role of the media in a free society and we believe that responsible media bridges the gap between the public and the government," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Not that we always agree with the members of the media, many times we don’t agree with the members of the media and what they report.

"But that is just part of the give and take of politics and that is just part of our job," she said.

She said she was happy that she opened the conference at a time when Filipinos are more optimistic about the future as the government continues to push the national agenda of "creating good paying jobs, stable prices and bringing the benefits of a strong economy to every Filipino."

"This is our way of saying that we thank you for your role in broadening our regional frontiers in trade, security and political consolidation," she said.

An annual convention that brings together major names in the publishing and newspaper industries, Publish Asia 2007 aims to review changes in the publishing industry, discuss their implications and explore how publishers can profit from the fast-evolving industry. It is considered as the biggest publishing event in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Philippines is considered the most dangerous place for journalists next to Iraq. Some 50 journalists have been killed since 2001, including 12 in 2006 alone. The first journalist to be killed this year was newspaper editor Hernani Pastolero Sr. who was gunned down in front of his home in Sultan Kudarat on Feb. 19.

The international community, including the United Nations and the European Community, has strongly condemned the killings and has urged the government to do more to stop the killings and arrest those responsible. Security forces and anti-communist militias are believed to be behind most of the killings.

Arroyo also said that just like the Publish Asia 2007 conference which makes use of vast international and regional alliances with its partners, her government’s partnerships with its own network of strong international and regional alliances have helped attract more investments and bring peace in Mindanao.

"Through strong international alliances, we have forged new partnerships that have led to billions of investments that help create five million new jobs. And we have strengthened our military and security alliances in the region and the world," she said.

"This has led to major gains for peace in Mindanao, the isolation and tracking down of known terrorists and a reduction in violent crimes,’’ she said.

She also said she is prepared to work with legitimate institutions and well-meaning allies in the international community in addressing the unexplained killings.

"A free, dynamic and responsible press can set the people moving towards the right direction of national renewal and reform.

"And even as we dish out the raw and hard truth in different degrees in different countries, depending on the norms of a particular country, all of us, all of you would serve your country well by having good news that unites and inspires," she said.

Delegates share their thoughts

Delegates to the Publish Asia 2007 conference agree that new technology is shaping the publishing industry and that its survival may depend on how ready it is to tackle such challenge.

"One thing is for sure, this transformation process would keep us busy for the coming years," IFRA Chief Executive Officer Reiner Mittelbach said.

Mittelbach said "technology is taking over the business" and that it is a reality that industry players should learn to deal with.

The theme for this year’s conference is "Re-inventing for Today’s Business, Creating for Tomorrow’s Challenges." IFRA Asia, the main organizer of the event, is assisted by The Philippine STAR, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Manila Times.

Miguel Varela, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said newspapers should respond to the challenges with a sense of vision and innovation by continuing to keep their readers interested and their revenues stable "even as we face a market that is being lured by other communication media."

He added that in order for newspapers to maintain their competitive edge, they should have a "road map crafted by experts who know the terrain of our business well."

"The experiences of those who have already adjusted to the demands of the challenge will be beneficial to others who are still waiting for the right time to move."

Varela disputed doomsayers who shuddered at the emergence of electronics media, citing a report by the World Association of Newspapers in 2005 showing newspaper circulation worldwide rose slightly, particularly in Asia. The three Asian countries with the largest market for newspapers are China with 96 million copies sold daily, India with 79 million copies, and Japan with 69 million copies.

The World Association of Newspapers also said that newspapers remain the world’s second largest advertising medium, next to television, and that would continue in the coming years.

But to remain in the game, Varela advised newspaper companies to apply the principle of "adopt and adept" which could mean utilizing four concepts such as new research, new products, new marketing, and new organization.

Mittelbach read the keynote speech of Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive officer of Telegraph Media Group from the United Kingdom, who was unable to attend the conference, which ends today.

IFRA Asia Chairman Pichai Chuensuksawadi, who is concurrent editor-in-chief of Post Publishing Co. in Thailand, expressed his gratitude to President Arroyo because this was the first time for a head of state to attend Publish Asia. – With Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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