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Philippines 18 October 2006

Eight journalists face arrest after being sued by president’s husband

Reporters Without Borders condemned the “hounding” of eight journalists by José Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has lodged a series of complaints against them for “defamation”, still treated as a criminal offence under Philippines law. The issue on 16 October 2006 of arrest warrants against the eight journalists on the privately-owned daily Malaya was the latest stage in this outrageous harassment, said the worldwide press freedom organisation. "Reporters Without Borders condemns this hounding by José Miguel Arroyo which is eroding press freedom in the Philippines. Even though the spouse of the head of state has no political mandate, he is nevertheless very influential in the country and several of his friends are very highly-placed officials,” it said. “With 43 complaints laid against the journalists, Jose Miguel Arroyo is seeking a total of 70 million pesos (nearly 1.1 million euros) in damages. Under the pretext of defending his reputation he is casting a long shadow over the investigative and independent press in the country,” the organisation said.

On 16 October 2006, a Manila regional judge Silvino Pampilo ordered the arrest of the eight Malaya journalists: publisher Amado Macasaet, editors Enrique Romualdez, Joy de los Reyes, Teresa Molina and Minnie Advincula, journalists Ellen Tordesillas, JP Lopez and Regina Bengco and the editorialist Francisco Tatad. They each had to put up a surety of 10,000 pesos (160 euros) to avoid being held in custody. In article which appeared in Malaya on 19 May 2004, the editorialist and former senator Francisco Tatad accused Jose Miguel Arroyo of embezzlement during the presidential campaign the same year. Reporters Without Borders backed a recent appeal by journalists’ organisations, including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), condemning the constant complaints and calling for defamation to be decriminalised. A defamation suit lodged by the governor of Cavite in Luzon-Sud province, northern Philippines, led to the arrest on 2 October 2006 of Rudy Apollo, editorialist and managing editor of local newspapers Asian Star Journal and Asian Star Balita. He was released on bail the following day.

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