Friday, September 01, 2006

Undermining press freedom

From Freedom Watch, the institutional blog of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

Defamation cases getting "out of control" in the Philippines
, global press group says

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries, is concerned at the "number of defamation charges still being used to silence journalists in the Philippines."

Here's the full text of the statement:

Despite the approval of a new bill by the House of Representatives in the Philippines tipped to reduce the use of libel to harass journalists, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned at the number of defamation charges still being used to silence journalists in the Philippines.

The Court of Appeals affirmed on July 31 the extreme conviction of Abante Tonite columnist and TV broadcaster Raffy Tulfo to 32 years prison and a Php14.7million (US$285,000) fine, on 14 counts of libel arising from several articles written nearly 10 years ago on a customs officer. The court ruled Tulfo's reports showed "reckless disregard" for the truth.

"This sentence is not just unreasonable, it is totally excessive and makes a mockery of the legal system in the Philippines. 32 years in jail, not to mention the extortionate fine, simply for reporting is almost unfathomable. It is obvious the court system of the Philippines has no respect for freedom of expression," the IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

"Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Cases such as this, and outrageous claims for civil damages, are being filed all over the country at an alarming rate. Clearly, not enough is being done to protect the fundamental right to free speech in the Philippines," Warren said.

Read more here.

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