Five Philippine journalists charged with libel of president’s husband, post bail

alerts-button-1.jpgCMFR/Philippines – Five journalists posted bail at the Regional Trial Court of the Manila City Hall on 14 December 2006 following the court’s approval of the filing of libel charges against them by Jose Miguel Arroyo, the husband of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Editor-in-chief Maritess Danguilan Vitug, managing editor Glenda Gloria, editorial consultant Jose Dalisay, former business editor Ricky Carandang and former contributing editor Booma Cruz each posted a bail of P10,000 (approx. US$200) to preempt the arrest warrant that is expected to be issued soon.

The journalists were sued in connection with an article that appeared in “Newsbreak” magazine on 3 December 2003.

They were accused of meaning and intending “to convey false and malicious insinuations” against Arroyo. It said that the story was “highly libelous and offensive and derogatory to the good name, character and reputation . . . of the First Gentleman.”

The article, entitled, “More Properties?” was a report on Arroyo’s allegedly undeclared properties in San Francisco, California. It was a follow-up to a 10 November 2003 “Newsbreak” report entitled, “San Francisco: The Arroyos’ favorite city.”

“Newsbreak” has denied that the story was malicious.

In a statement, Vitug said, “The article was very transparent; we said that these were leads and that we pursued them and stated our findings. Our cover story on the Arroyos’ undeclared properties in San Francisco provides proper context to this follow-up article.”

She described the charge as “very brazen” and told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, “it looks like we can no longer seek protection from the law. We know we can stand our ground in court, but the issue here is the message that the charges send to other journalists.”

Arroyo started filing libel charges in 2003 and has implicated a total of 43 media personnel in 10 libel suits. A group of journalists is set to file a class civil action suit against Arroyo for abuse of power and curtailing freedom of expression.

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