Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shooting the messenger?

Has the government completely set its eyes on the media? Shooting the messenger would never solve the problems in this country.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines recently came out with this statement.

NUJP on Mike Arroyo's libel suits and Gonzalez's order to investigate Arlyn de la Cruz

The shotgun libel suits filed by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo against the Tulfo brothers and practically the entire editorial staff of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Bandera, and the order of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to the National Bureau of Investigation to determine any possible criminal liability Arlyn de la Cruz may bear for her article on the "security test" conducted by an anti-terrorism expert, prove that it is not just bullets and threats journalists have to contend with in the continuing struggle to bring the truth as best as they can to the people.

Indeed, libel suits have had a long and ignominious history of being used in this country by those who seek to prevent the press from delving into and exposing their dark deeds.

As the International Federation of Journalists so aptly pointed out, the resort to libel cases has gone "out of control," not only by the outrageous claims plaintiffs often lodge but, even more so, by who file them.

In fact, the IFJ has held up Mr. Arroyo and his propensity for filing libel suits against those he does not agree with as the epitome of what it described as "attempts to control and censor what journalists are able to report on, by manipulating outdated laws" in a "deliberate attempt to
undermine press freedom in the Philippines."

We do not begrudge Mr. Arroyo's plaint that he is only out to defend his rights. But, we ask, since when have the Philippine media ever begrudged him or anyone in his position of awesome power and influence the right to respond to allegations he deems undeserved?

And lest we forget, is this not the same Mr. Arroyo who, while seeking to ingratiate himself with one of the country's oldest press clubs, practically justified the murders of journalists by lashing out at media "irresponsibility" and held up the case of Klein Cantoneros as an example of what supposed miscreants in our ranks stood to reap even as our colleague was still vainly fighting for his life?

But then again, can we, should we, expect any better from a dispensation whose justice department is headed by someone whose idea of responding to unwelcome news – particularly of official ineptness and malfeasance – is to shoot the messenger?

(Arlyn de la Cruz's photo from

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