The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports the journalists who are set to file a class civil suit against Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for his repeated abuse of outdated criminal defamation laws to silence journalists in the Philippines.
According to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Arroyo has filed libel cases against 43 journalists and demanded 141 million pesos (approximately 2.8 million US dollars) in damages since 2003, instilling unnecessary fear in the Philippines' media community.
"These numbers are disgraceful in a country whose government espouses a commitment to press freedom," IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
"This appallingly long list of journalists, who face jail terms for simply doing their jobs, is a shocking example of the way Arroyo abuses his power and position, shielding himself behind outdated laws, to influence and control the media," the IFJ president said.
"Arroyo is a public figure, and therefore subject to public scrutiny; thus, it is in the people's interest for journalists to be able to report freely," Warren said.
"We challenge the Philippines' government to set a higher standard of press freedom and support demands that Jose Miguel Arroyo be tried before the civil courts for obstructing the rights of journalists," he said.
The civil case against Jose Miguel Arroyo is based on Article 32 of the Philippine Civil Code, which states that any public officer or any private individual, who violates or impedes the rights of another person, shall be liable for damages. Among those rights enumerated in the code are the freedoms of speech and of the press.
According to the NUJP, articles 19, 20 and 21 of the code also pertain to a person's wilful abuse of another person's rights.
The IFJ, as part of its global campaign for the decriminalisation of defamation, joined more than 600 media workers in signing an NUJP petition to decriminalise libel suits in the Philippines.
The NUJP will formally submit the petition tomorrow at 2pm (local time) to Senate President Manny Villar at his office.
For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries