Press Summit Opens With Remembrance of Slain Philippine Journalists

The world’s press began their annual summit meetings Tuesday with a moment of silence for more than 30 journalists who were murdered in a vicious attack in the Philippines last week, the deadliest single attack on the media in history.

The murder of the journalists was “an act of savagery that has written one of the blackest pages in the history of the world’s press,” said Gavin O’Reilly, President of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), during the opening ceremony of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress, 16th World Editors Forum and Info Services Expo 2009 in Hyderabad, India.

He called for a moment of silence for the journalists, who were killed,along with 29 other people, by gunmen who ambushed a convoy in which they were traveling on 23 November.

The audience, which included Indian President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil,other dignitaries, and more than 900 publishers, chief editors, managing directors and other senior newspaper executives from 87 countries, rose for a moment of silence to remember the journalists, express sympathy for their families, and condemn the murders.

The Congress, Forum and Expo, organised by WAN-IFRA, will continue for three days of discussions focused on the transformation of the news publishing industry in the digital age.

It is the first time in the events have ever been held in India.

“As an organization which defends, promotes and celebrates freedom of information and expression, we feel especially at home in this country,” said Mr O’Reilly. “For India is a living refutation of the dictatorial and autocratic regimes the world over that claim that freedom and pluralism and democracy are incompatible with, and even impossible, in ethnically and religiously diverse societies.”

“It is reassuring to see that not only is the press in India growing in leaps and bounds, but that it clearly sees itself to have major responsibilities in helping this process of nation building, while never compromising its freedom to judge and criticize,” he said. “And the size of the press in India is truly staggering: almost 20 percent of all the newspapers sold daily in the world are sold here in India, which quite recently surpassed China as the largest press market.”

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