Update from Newsbreak distributed by NUJP:
Arraignment set for Newsbreak editors
Editors of Newsbreak will be arraigned on January 10, Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. at the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Manila City Hall.
Six Newsbreak editors were charged with libel in November last year as a result of a story on the First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo the fortnightly news magazine published in December 2003. Scheduled to be arraigned are Marites Danguilan Vitug, editor in chief; Glenda M. Gloria, managing editor; Ricky Carandang, former business editor; R.E. Otico and Jose Dalisay Jr., editorial consultants; and Booma Cruz, former contributing editor.
The resolution dated Nov. 13, 2006 and penned by Fredy Gomez, assistant city prosecutor (Manila), said that we, the accused, “meant and intended to convey false and malicious insinuations” against the First Gentleman, “imputed… a crime…” and therefore our story was “highly libelous and offensive and derogatory to the good name, character and reputation…of the First Gentleman.”
The resolution further said that the article was “solely prepared, written, and published by the accused for no other purpose than to impeach and besmirch” Mr. Arroyo.
Statement by Newsbreak:
First Gentleman Redefines Libel
We are deeply concerned that the First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo, is not using this libel suit to seek legitimate redress. Rather he is redefining libel, a clear affront to the Philippine press.
As we know, the test of libel is the presence of malice. But Mr. Arroyo disregards this basic tenet and recklessly uses libel to intimidate and silence the press. The message we’re getting is this: anything that hints of criticism of the First Gentleman or is considered unfavorable coverage of his activities is “libelous.”
In effect, he hinders the public’s right to information on matters of public concern.
Moreover, Mr. Arroyo misunderstands the role of the press. Never in the course of our work do we write “solely to besmirch” the reputation of a person. Our foremost duty is to inform readers on issues that are vital to public interest. Mr. Arroyo is only one among many public figures we have written about.
We want to stress that we have chosen to be journalists because we are convinced of the value of a free and responsible press in a democracy, which is to promote transparency and accountability in society, serve as government watchdog, and keep the citizenry informed so that they can participate actively in public life.
We believe in independent journalism whereby journalists report without fear or favor and keep the public interest at heart. The professionalism which has characterized our work, independently of each other, and together at Newsbreak, is the same professionalism that we have used in reporting on public figures.
Marites Danguilan Vitug
Editor in Chief
The story referred to is a short “Inside Track” item (Dec. 8, 2003) following our cover story on the Arroyos’ undeclared properties in San Francisco, California (November 10, 2003). We said that in the course of our research on the California properties, we got leads from reliable sources about two houses, the addresses of which we provided, allegedly owned by Mr. Arroyo. We said that we searched the ownership and acquisition details of these properties but these yielded names that could not be linked to the First Gentleman. We said that our sources told us that the one who supposedly acquired the properties for Mr. Arroyo was a male relative of his who’s into real estate business in California.
The article was very transparent: we said these were leads and that we pursued them and stated our findings. Our cover story on the Arroyos’ undeclared properties in San Francisco provides proper context to this follow-up article.