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Arroyo's husband sued for stifling press freedom

Arroyo's husband sued for stifling press freedom

About 40 journalists, press groups and news groups filed a class action Thursday against Philippine President Gloria Arroyo's husband, claiming his libel suits against them violated press freedom.
The class action, filed in suburban Makati city, accused Arroyo's husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, of "abuse of pride and violation of freedom of the press" and demanded 12.5 million pesos (US$254,200) in damages.
The suit was in retaliation against his filing libel complaints earlier this year against 43 journalists and publications.
"The class action suit ... also argues that the (libel) suits have not only caused the respondents sleepless nights; they also have a chilling effect on press freedom," said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, one of the groups involved.
Marites Vitug, editor of Newsbreak magazine, said the damages they were seeking were "symbolic" and that they only wanted to prevent others from following the example of First Gentleman Arroyo, popularly known as "Mike."
Lawyer for the journalists, Harry Roque, said it was clear that Mike Arroyo had filed so many libel suits to stifle journalists exercising the freedom of the press, rather than just to protect his name.
"Unless he is restrained from filing these cases, we feel the media may in fact be silenced," Roque said.
Jesus Santos, lawyer for Mike Arroyo, said he welcomed the class action and quoted the president's husband as saying, "see you in court."
"How can it be a curtailment of press freedom when the law accords him that right" to sue for libel, Santos asked.
"The First Gentleman respects the right of media people to sue him so they should also respect the right to defend my honor through legal means," the lawyer quoted Mike Arroyo as saying.
Roque said he expected the case to be long and drawn out, and expressed hope that it would only be settled after Gloria Arroyo was no longer president, to ensure the decision was fair.
Arroyo's term ends in 2010. She has battled charges of election fraud and corruption, while her husband has been accused by media and the politicial opposition of using his position to enrich himself.


Updated : 2021-05-07 21:44 GMT+08:00