By Genalyn Kabiling
Press freedom is “very much alive” in the Philippines and the government is committed to safeguard such freedom and protect journalists, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a recent report to a media watchdog in France.
Andanar met with representatives from Reporters Without Borders in Paris, France last Tuesday and presented the country’s state of media freedom and the protection of journalists.
“Our meeting with the Reporters Without Borders was fruitful. We presented the government’s existing efforts of the administration to safeguard press freedom in the country,” Andanar said in a statement.
Andanar, chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), said the country’s media environment remains “one of the most vibrant in the world” and freedom of the press is “very much alive.”
“We hope that this engagement will iron out concerns about the stance of the government when it comes to media freedom. Clearly, it is the primary policy of the Duterte administration to protect the journalists and promote their welfare,” he added.
Andanar is currently leading a Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) delegation to Europe to promote the government’s achievements and dispel misinformation about its policies including the war on drugs.
In his report, Andanar gave updates about the government’s efforts to resolve the media-related killings in the country. The report also highlighted the landmark court decision that convicted several members of the Ampatuan clan and others for the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in 2009.
Andanar also pushed for the passage of a bill seeking to advance the welfare of journalists through housing, job security, and healthcare benefits.
“We recognize the importance of journalism in terms of accountability, democracy, and rule of law. We will sustain our policy of securing journalists across the country by championing the Media Workers Welfare Act in Congress,” he said.
With Andanar in the meeting were Philippine Ambassador to France Maria Theresa Lazaro, PCOO Assistant Secretary JV Arcena, and First Secretary and Consul Hans Mohaimin Siriban.
From France, Andanar and his team traveled to Brussels, Belgium to continue with their information campaign and dialogue with the international community.
Andanar held meetings with several European parliamentarians, diplomats, think tank experts, and foreign journalists to tackle topics such as human rights, media freedom, and the anti-drugs campaign.
He said they seek “to tell the truth” as well as listen to any criticisms against government.
“The strategy really is just to tell the truth. That’s the strategy. There’s no rocket science to it. It’s basically to engage, and we make you feel that the government is here,” said Andanar.
“If you have criticisms against the government, we are here to listen and we are here to reason with you. It’s as simple as that. There’s no magic.”