Philippines: Journalist released after 10 hours in detention

Jun. 22, 2007

MANILA — Journalist Jofelle Tesorio, who was ordered jailed by a local judge yesterday morning, was released after almost ten hours in detention.

Tesorio was brought to a women’s detention facility in Camp Karingal in Quezon City shortly after posting a P20,000 bail bond about 9 a.m. Thursday morning.

Tesorio, former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and editor of Bandillo ng Palawan, is facing a libel suit after writing a series of articles dating back to 2003 relating to former Palawan congressman Vicente Sandoval Sr.

The libel case was filed by Sandoval over Tesorio’s article on the Camago-Malampaya Natural Gas Project in Palawan, which came out in the Jan. 20-26, 2003 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan.

Jose Torres Jr, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said Tesorio’s detention proved that the country’s libel law “is being used by people in power to intimidate journalists and curtail press freedom.”

The NUJP reiterated its call to decriminalize libel, a criminal offense under the country’s Penal Code.

“Journalists should not be thrown behind bars for doing their job,” Torres said.

The International Federation of Journalists on Thursday also called on the Philippine government to decriminalize libel.

“The libel laws in the Philippines are outdated, excessive and unreasonable, and they are too often abused by those with power to silence journalists,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“The IFJ again calls for an overhaul of libel laws in the Philippines to remove defamation from the criminal code,” Park said.

In April this year, radio journalist Alex “Lex” Adonis was jailed for four years after he was convicted for libel. Another radio reporter, Jun Alegre, was also jailed for libel early this year.

NUJP’s Davao chapter, in a separate statement issued Thursday afternoon said, Tesorio “is a victim of repression and she does not deserve one single moment in jail.”

“We lament that a lot more corrupt politicians in the country remain unscathed while the brave watchdogs who are supposed to remain free to perform their duties in the service of democracy are one by one being hurled behind cold bars because of the onerous libel law in the country that is now being used as a tool at the disposal of the powerful,” NUJP-Davao said.

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