Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Accused journalist posts bail

My heart sank this morning seeing a visibly nervous journalist posting bail for her temporary liberty at the Manila Regional Trial Court.
The journalist is one of those accused of libel, a criminal offense, by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.
I was running late for my hearing at the old ombudsman building near the Manila City hall this morning.
I parked at the SM mall nearby.
While on my way I met Jason, my law school classmate, who apparently did not know where he was headed.
I took time to greet him, and asked him where he was headed.
He asked where the ombudsman building is.
I told him that was where I was headed, so he tagged along.
I asked him what his hearing was.
He said he will accompany his client who was to post bail.
Upon arrival at the building, we split as I was already late for my own hearing.
After my hearing I noticed a number of media persons loitering at the second floor.
The nosy journalist in me asked one of them what the story was.
One of them, a reporter of ABS CBN, said that a reporter Mia (or was it Mimi) Gonzales of the Daily Mirror was arriving to post bail.
I got curious and stuck around.
Later emerged Jason, my classmate and his client, the Daily Mirror reporter.
A group of reporters were close behind them.
The reporter was visibly nervous. It was apparently her first time as an accused.
I told my self, these libel cases filed against journalists are getting ridiculous.
The reporter was most likely just doing her job.
She was accused of a criminal offense, and had to under go a criminal process, just like any one else accused of any crime.
Journalism is perhaps one of the very few professions were one can be accused of a crime for merely doing one's job.
But as they say, its part of the territory.
It is really time to undertake a re-thinking of our penal libel laws in orer to accord explicit protection to member sof the working press.


Rolly Cavan. said...

Dear Editor,

A publisher and reporter in Tagbilaran, Bohol was recently convicted in the regional trial court. The issue was about purchase of over-priced road equipment, Salcon Utility Joint Venture Agreement, and the expense of 160 million Ubay Dam, with no significant progress visible in the site.

Governor Aumentado, through his counsel, former governor Butalid won the case against the defendant, publisher and reporter, for libel.

Could, your interpretation of the, New York Times v. Sullivan, when creatively argued, and brilliantly explained, have prevented the conviction or perhaps help the newsmen on an appeal?

Jay Dejaresco said...

Actual malice in defamation is somewhat 'fluid'. It is not brittle. You have to get to know the material facts of the case.
If you would notice, "reckless disregard" of the truth is kind of a state-of-mind thing, hard to establish. You have to ascertain and analyze the environmental facts.