The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has pleaded again for the decriminalisation of libel in the Philippines, after a journalist was sentenced to over four years’ jail.
Radio journalist Alex “Lex” Adonis, 43, was reportedly imprisoned when he could not afford to defend himself against a libel conviction filed in October 2001 by Davao congressman Prospero Nograles, after Adonis revealed Nograles' alleged affair.
IFJ President Christopher Warren said that Adonis’ incarceration was an indictment of the Philippines’ legal system.
“It is an affront that a journalist is in prison because he could not afford legal representation, to fight a conviction that should not be part of the criminal code to begin with,” Warren said.
“The Philippine government must take immediate action to rectify this draconian legislation and free Alex Adonis,” he said.
Adonis had worked in the media industry for 18 years, but when Nogales’ case against him dragged out for five years, his P7,500 (approx. US$150) salary from Bombo Radyo in Davao reportedly was barely enough to feed his family.
According to local reports, Adonis could not afford a lawyer and missed much of his hearing because he couldn’t get to court between his radio programs.
Adonis was arrested while visiting his mother on February 19.
Adonis told Philippine newspaper The Inquirer he was concerned about being transferred to Davao Penal Colony, where he would come face to face with drug lords and organised crime bosses he had previously attacked on air.
“The IFJ has serious concerns for the safety of Adonis and calls for an immediate review of his case,” 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