Sedition charges against three journalists in the Philippines have led the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to call for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to drop the charges and instead focus on promoting a free and safe press by bringing to justice those responsible for the slaying of 50 journalists since 2001.
The Philippine Department of Justice is proceeding to charge the publisher and two columnists of The Daily Tribune newspaper with inciting to sedition, rejecting their April 10 motion to dismiss the charges filed by the police.
According to reports, Ninez Cacho-Olivarez and columnists Ramon Señeres and Herman Tiu-Laurel were charged on February 14 with violating the Revised Penal Code over articles critical of President Arroyo and her administration.
“It is disappointing that President Arroyo seems far more concerned with utilising the courts to punish those who dare to criticise her administration, rather than stamping out the culture of impunity that continues to plague her government,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
“In fact, President Arroyo would be far better off to use the country’s legal and police resources to find those responsible for the unlawful murder of a sickening number of journalists rather than intimidating those critical of the government,” Warren said.
Senior State Prosecutor Philip Kimpo is said to have alleged that articles published in the paper tended to "lead or stir up the people against the lawful authorities, namely, the president of the Philippines, and disturb the peace of the community."
These latest charges follow a spate of libel cases brought before the courts by the country’s First Gentleman, Jose Miguel Arroyo, who, according to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, currently has 10 libel lawsuits against 45 journalists and other media workers.
“The IFJ once again calls on President Arroyo to put an end to intimidation tactics designed to silence the watchdog function of the media, to remove libel from the criminal code, and to find and prosecute the killers of the 50 journalists killed in the Philippines,” Warren said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries