Philippine authorities attempt to arrest journalist

alerts-button-1.jpgThe Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is concerned by the latest attempt by Philippine authorities to arrest a journalist.

On 11 November 2006, police attempted to arrest journalist Mia Gonzales in the press room of the Malacañang Press Corps office at the official residence of the president.

Gonzales is vice president for print of the Malacañang Press Corps and one of the 43 journalists being sued by Joe Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The suit against Gonzales stemmed from her article on President Arroyo in “Newsbreak” magazine on 7 June 2004 entitled, “Will she now change?”

Malacañang reporters said six policemen came at around 10:00 a.m. and asked to see Gonzales, logging down their purpose as “to serve warrant.”

In an 11 November statement, The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) voiced their alarm, noting, “That the attempt to arrest Gonzales was made right inside the Palace grounds, which is not only her workplace but also home of her accuser and his powerful spouse . . . cannot but make us suspect that this was a deliberate attempt to send a chilling warning to journalists that no place is sacrosanct when it comes to appeasing the whims of the mighty.”

The union added: “We firmly reiterate our position on the libel spree Mr. Arroyo embarked on: He and his wife should face the issues raised against them where they are best addressed – in the arena of free and democratic discourse.

“NUJP finds the attempt to arrest and detain journalists who have written unfavorably about the Arroyo administration as a brazen violation of the freedom of the press, coming on the heels of the serving of arrest warrants against Malaya editors and staff, also on libel charges filed by Mr. Arroyo.”

On 16 October 2006, acting on the libel suits by the Philippine First Gentleman, a Manila court issued arrest warrants against the publisher and several of the staff members, including a former senator, of the national newspaper “Malaya”. They each paid a bail of P10,000 (approx. US$200).

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