Philippine provincial governor threatens journalists with libel suit ahead of elections

alerts-button.jpgGovernor Josie Mendoza dela Cruz of Bulacan, a province north of Manila, warned journalists on 22 January 2007 that she will file libel charges against them if they report “unsubstantiated news to malign her reputation”, according to a 27 January 2007 release from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a SEAPA founding member.

“Anticipating various tactics of political mudslinging pending the coming May elections, dela Cruz declared that she would file charges against members of the press who write or report unsubstantiated news to malign her reputation,” a report from the provincial public affairs office of Bulacan said.

Dela Cruz made the announcement before provincial government employees in the provincial capital’s gym.

“It’s like prior restraint. We already know those things. Do we still have to be told? It’s threatening the media,” Jose Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute and editor of the Bulacan-based newspaper “Mabuhay” said.

“This, however, does not suppress the right (to) press freedom, but (serves) to remind the government watchdogs to be accurate and truthful in their stories to inform and not delude the public with false accusations pertaining to (the government),” the public affairs office report added.

An employee of the provincial office, who refused to be named, said it was not the intention of dela Cruz to intimidate the press.

“Unless the situation calls for it, she will not file (libel) cases. But even though it is the right of everyone to file libel suits, the governor (will not file a suit unless) she thinks that (she has been) maligned,” the source said.

The report also said that the governor made the warning with the best interest of the province in mind.

“The damage done by the fabricated articles would adversely affect the interest of various stakeholders who are depending and benefiting from the programs and services offered by the province,” the report said.

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