US says PH media murders are 'deeply troubling'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 24 2014 05:55 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2014 12:03 PM

MANILA - The United States views the killing of journalists in the Philippines as "deeply troubling", its ambassador said Monday, adding his voice to growing criticism from watchdog groups.

"Attempts to silence journalists are deeply troubling and not acceptable," Philip Goldberg told reporters.

"Democracy needs a free press," he stressed even as he reaffirmed the close alliance between the United States and its former colony, the Philippines.

He did not specify what steps the government should take to remedy the situation.

While the Philippines has a free-wheeling US-style democracy with an outspoken press, critics charge that the government does not do enough to investigate and curb the killings of journalists.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists lists nine journalists murdered in the Philippines last year. Three are known to have been killed in relation to their work.

The organization said 76 journalists have been murdered in the country since 1992.

In the worst such incident, 32 journalists were among 58 people murdered in the southern island of Mindanao in 2009 by a powerful political clan that was trying to stop a rival from running in elections.

Despite global outrage over the incident, the trial of the clan members and their allies is still continuing and many suspects still remain at large.

President Benigno Aquino has repeatedly said he is determined to crack down on the murders, but local press watchdogs charge that the masterminds behind the killings often go unpunished.

The crimes are often blamed on the country's "culture of impunity" in which powerful men feel they can get away with crimes including murder.