Reporters Without Borders today condemned the four-and-a-half-year prison sentence which dxMF Radyo Bombo presenter Alex Adonis has been serving in Davao prison, in the southeast of Mindanao island, since his arrest on 19 February.
“This sentence is disturbing for all media workers in the Philippines,” the press freedom organisation said. “Most provincial journalists earn very little and cannot afford a proper legal defence when lawsuits are brought against them.”
A court in Davao imposed the sentence on 31 January after finding Adonis guilty of defaming Prospero Nograles, a member of parliament reputedly close to President Gloria Arroyo. He sued Adonis for referring on the air to an alleged affair he had in 2001. Nograles also sued the station’s director, Dan Vicente, but Vicente was acquitted.
A journalist for the past 18 years, married and the father of two children, Adonis earned 150 dollars a month with Radyo Bombo. He was based in Davao until 2004, when he was transferred to Cagayan de Oro, 500 km away, for the same pay.
Initially, when the trial began, he travelled to Davao for the hearings, but he could not afford the fares and most of the hearings took place in his absence. Friends said he became depressed and stopped going to work. His lawyer, whose fees had until then been paid by the station, withdrew his services and Adonis was not represented by a lawyer during the latter part of the trial.