Newsbreak editor arrested

Gemma Bagauaya, editor of the online newsmagazine Newsbreak, is being held at the Pasig Police Station after she was picked up about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday at Newsbreak’s office in Mandaluyong City.

Bagauaya may have to stay in jail overnight if the police refuse or fail to process Bagauya’s papers for her to post bail before the end of the business hours.

Bagauaya was arrested on a P100-million libel case filed by Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson, a senatorial candidate in the May elections and a close ally of President Arroyo.

Newsbreak managing editor Glenda Gloria said she and Newsbreak editor-in-chief Marites Vitug, who are also charged by Singon, were themselves almost arrested on Wednesday by policemen who were waiting outside the Newsbreak office.

Gloria and Vitug, who were scheduled to attend a forum sponsored by Newsbreak on Wednesday afternoon, managed to convince the policemen to let them after promising to post bail Thursday morning.

Gloria said the case stems from an article published last year titled, “The Second Gentleman.”

Vitug and Gloria are among Newsbreak editors also accused of libel by presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo, who has filed multiple suits against at least 46 journalists.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which launched a signature campaign last year to protest the libel charges filed by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo against 46 journalists, denounced the arrest.

Rowena Paraan, NUJP secretary-general, said “the incident demonstrates the vulnerability of journalists to harassment by politicians who can afford to throw away money for the enormous filing fees simply to threaten media.”

“It is a sad irony that a country that prides itself of having the ‘freest’ media in Asia has journalists being harassed by government officials themselves for simply doing their job,” she said.

Jose Torres Jr., NUJP chairman, said: “The use of an outdated libel law to harass media, coupled with the killings and threats against journalists, point to a deteriorating press freedom situation.” –NUJP

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