NUJP on arrest attempt vs Palace reporter

STATEMENT
November 11, 2006

Arrest attempt on Gonzales shows utter disregard for press freedom and the working journalist

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is extremely alarmed at the attempt by policemen to serve an arrest warrant on Malacañang reporter Mia Gonzales right in the Press Working Area of the Malacañang Press Corps, of which she is vice president for print.

Gonzales, who now writes for Business Mirror, is one of the 43 journalists facing libel suits filed by the president’s husband Joe Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. The suit against Gonzales stemmed from an article on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo published in Newsbreak magazine on June 7, 2004 titled, “Will She Now Change?”.

According to Malacañang reporters, six policemen came to the Malacañang Press Corps office at around 10 a.m. today and asked to see Gonzales, saying they only wanted to ask her something. But in the security logbook at the entrance, they wrote down that the purpose of their visit was “to serve warrant.”

NUJP finds the attempt to arrest and detain journalists who have written unfavorably about the Arroyo administration as a brazen violation of the freedom of the press, coming on the heels of the serving of arrest warrants against Malaya editors and staff, also on
libel charges filed by Mr. Arroyo.

That the attempt to arrest Gonzales was made right inside the Palace grounds, which is not only her workplace but also home of her accuser and his powerful spouse, the President of the Republic of the Philippines, cannot but make us suspect that this was a deliberate attempt to send a chilling warning to journalists that no place is sacrosanct when it comes to appeasing the whims of the mighty.

We firmly reiterate our position on the libel spree Mr. Arroyo embarked on: He and his wife should face the issues raised against them where they are best addressed — in the arena of free and democratic discourse.

They should stop harassing journalists and stop using an antiquated libel law as a tool to silence criticisms against this administration.

As international media groups have repeatedly pointed out, the Presidential spouse has gone out of control with his libel spree, which is simply proving how, in this country the powerful show no qualms in using antiquated laws to stifle the freedom of the press and expression and shield themselves from public scrutiny.

We would also like to remind the Philippine National Police of a Memorandum of Agreement signed between the PNP and National Press Club that any arrest of a member of media should be coordinated with the NPC.

The NUJP also calls on Congress to immediately work to repeal the law on libel and strike it off the Revised Penal Book to decriminalize libel.

References:

Jose Torres Jr., Chairperson
Rowena Carranza-Paraan, Secretary-general

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