Libel cases threatening newsrooms in the Philippines

After the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over cyber libel, the Philstar.com decided to delete an article from 2002 over anticipated libel cases. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) have raised serious concerns over this decision, and call on the government of the Philippines to end its crackdown on press freedom.

Credit: Rappler

Just days after Ressa was released on bail, Philstar.com took down its article "Influential businessman eyed in ex-councilor's slay", which it published in 2002. Readers could not access the article, which was originally published in the Philippines Star newspaper. The newsroom posted an explanation behind the missing of the article. It said: “This was after the camp of Mr. Wilfredo Keng raised the possibility of legal action. Although laws are not supposed to be applied retroactively, the scope and bounds of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 are still unexplored and the takedown was seen as a prudent course of action. At this time, it is not clear if any live digital element on the article page outside the 17-year-old article could be used against us.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in its statement said that they cannot fully fault Philstar.com for its decision after how the very agency supposed to ensure the “effective and efficient administration of justice” has done the opposite to satisfy its principal’s obsession to muzzle critical media. 

NUJP said: We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists to stand firm and resist these brazen attempts to curtail freedom of the press and of expression, freedoms, we stress, that do not belong to us but to the people whose right to know we serve.”

IFJ said: “We stand with NUJP and support the work of our affiliate and media community in the Philippines to fight for their freedom and independency. We urge the government to stop using legal cases and intimidation as their weapon to silence the journalism.”

Following Maria Ressa’s arrest, IFJ affiliate stood in solidarity with our colleagues in the Philippines. See the actions here.  

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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