Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Fight For Press Freedom

Its going to be a very busy week for media. Ellen Tordesillas of Malaya has officially reported the threat she received the other day. She today asked the NBI to look into the matter. The authorities had asked for the cooperation of media and the public to aid them in solving the 42 cases of media killings. Now that Ellen has stepped up, I hope the authorities will make good on their promise to support the media practitioners. The International Federation of Journalists also challenged GMA to live up to her promise and prevent another death in the media community.

News also of the issuance of an arrest warrant for Business Mirror's and Newsbreak's contributor Romina "Mia" Gonzalez broke out. The warrant stemmed from a libel case filed against her by Mike Arroyo. The arresting team trooped to Malacañang but failed to locate her. Her colleagues at the Malacañang Press Corps denounced the PNP while The NUJP was also dismayed by the the botched arrest. The PNP and the NPC has a Memorandum of Agreement regarding arrests of journalists.

Libel has been used by Mike Arroyo to get back at the journalists who have written items against him. Tordesillas and Gonzalez are just 2 of 43 journalists who face libel cases in court filed by Arroyo. Intimidation, harassment, only Mike Arroyo knows for sure the reason behind the libel cases. Obviously he cannot claim that he is a private entity, being the husband of GMA makes him a public figure. Libel cases rarely prosper and are usually used to cow critics to silence them. No matter how he and his lawyers justify these cases, one thing is obvious, he is a very powerful man.

The manner by which warrants are issued belies his claim that he does not enjoy preferential treatment from the courts. The DoJ too continues to make statements against defendants to the brink of giving guilty verdicts even before the cases are heard. The assault on press freedom continues and Mike continues to flex his muscles. Often, he portrays himself as the oppressed and abused party. But we all know the real personality behind the theatrical man.

If these were not meant to intimidate or harass the press, I will let you decide by leaving you with the statement of his "good" lawyer. “If anybody is to be blamed for whatever inconvenience she may have had, it’s Miss Gonzalez herself. She wrote the libelous (article) and maligned the reputation of the First Gentleman. So she should be brave enough to face the consequences.” So let this be a warning to our journalists, write only good things and not criticisms lest you want to face a death threat or a libel suit. The reality: They won't be cowed into silence hence be embolden.