Philippine Bar Association offers free legal aid to 'targeted' journos in Cusi, Uy libel suits

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Philippine Bar Association offers free legal aid to 'targeted' journos in Cusi, Uy libel suits
In this file photo, students of the University of the Philippines picket at Palma Hall, calling for an end of repression of press freedom under the Duterte administration.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Bar Association said it is offering free legal services to “targeted journalists and media organizations” in the libel suits filed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and businessman Dennis Uy.

“As lawyers who believe in the importance of the Freedom of the Press, we cannot stand idle and let this happen. The PBA will not allow the law on libel to be weaponized against the vanguards of our democracy,” the PBA, the oldest organization of lawyers, said in a statement.

Cusi filed raps against a total of 17 media organizations and journalists over stories they wrote on the graft complaint filed against them over the controversial Malampaya gas field output. Uy also sued a number of journalists in a separate complaint.

The PBA said they are aware of how financially draining and stressful criminal prosecutions are, and for those without access to competent legal counsels, the experience may be debilitating.

It also noted that Cusi, in his complaint, asked P200 million for damages from the journalists, and this amount, the PBA said, “[leaves] little doubt that this slew of suits will introduce a ‘chilling effect,’” they added.

The lawyers' organization then called on their colleagues in the legal profession to assist the “beleaguered journalists.” They stressed that the public relies on the Press to search for truths, and their ability to do so remains if they continue to be free from fear and harassment.

They continued: “And to those in the Press who have felt the cold tinges of fear, the PBA assures you, we are with you. You are not alone.”

The PBA said journalists may contact their main office through 8815-2485 or via email at [email protected].

Cusi has accused journalists of "malicious" reporting and imputation of graft against him. He explained his decision to file libel cases in a separate statement, saying the move was “to protect the integrity” of public officials and “to support and honor them.”

The news organizations whose executives, editors and reporters are facing Cusi and Uy’s libel complaints are ABS-CBN, Business Mirror, BusinessWorld, GMA News Online, Manila Bulletin, Philstar.com and Rappler.

These libel suits have revived the call for a Senate investigation into the Malampaya gas deal and heightened journalists groups’ call for decriminalization of libel.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 12, 2022 - 4:40pm

Dennis Denora, a Sun.Star reporter and publisher of the Trends and Times community paper, has been shot dead by unidentified killers, according to the Davao chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Denora was killed near the wet market of Panabo City in Davao Del Norte on Thursday afternoon, NUJP Davao says.

The Davao del Norte Press & Radio-TV Club says in a statement that is is angered and saddened by news of the killing.

"His death awakens the anger and pains of journalists who do their job and yet are being judged by the pistol," the group also says.

January 12, 2022 - 4:40pm

The Department of Interior and Local Government has ordered the Philippine National Police to designate "Media Security Focal Persons" in each province and city nationwide to provide a mantle of protection for members of the media who may face threats or intimidation in the course of the 2022 elections.

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the memorandum was issued by Secretary Eduardo M. Año to PNP Chief General Dionardo Carlos upon the request of PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco in anticipation of a possible increase in violent incidents involving mediamen during the election season.

This at the heels of the killing Wednesday morning of broadcaster Jaynard Angeles, also former station manager of Radyo ni Juan-Tacurong in that city. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

December 16, 2021 - 1:08pm

There are currently 488 media professionals imprisoned around the world, the highest number since Reporters Without Borders began counting more than 25 years ago, the NGO announced Thursday. 

By contrast, the number killed this year -- 46 -- was the lowest since it began issuing annual tallies, due to the relative stabilisation of conflicts in the Middle East. — AFP

December 9, 2021 - 2:47pm

The number of journalists jailed around the world hit a new record in 2021, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday, with China and Myanmar having put a quarter of the 293 media workers behind bars. 

In its annual report, the CPJ listed 50 journalists imprisoned in China, 26 in Burma, 25 in Egypt, 23 in Vietnam and 19 in Belarus. 

Adding those jailed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the CPJ said a total of 293 journalists were in prison worldwide as of December 1 — up from 280 the year before. — AFP

November 15, 2021 - 6:57pm

A US journalist detained in Myanmar since May has been released and will be deported soon, a junta spokesman told AFP on Monday.

Danny Fenster was being taken to the capital Naypyidaw from Yangon where he was jailed and will be deported, another government source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fenster, who had been working for local outlet Frontier Myanmar for around a year, was arrested as he headed home to see his family in May.

"We can confirm that he has been released and will be deported. Detail will be released later," spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.

Fenster, who spent 176 days in detention, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last week for encouraging dissent against the military, unlawful association and breaching immigration law. — AFP

November 14, 2021 - 5:44pm

Sudanese security forces have arrested the bureau chief of Qatari-based Al Jazeera TV network, the media outlet said on Sunday, a day after the latest crackdown on anti-coup protesters left at least six dead.

"Security forces raided the house of Al-Musalami al-Kabbashi, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Sudan, and detained him," the network said on Twitter without elaborating. 

Al Jazeera has given prominent coverage to demonstrations against the October 25 coup but last week it also aired a detailed interview with top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, one of only two he has granted.

Demonstrations against Sudan's latest coup, including by tens of thousands of people nationwide on Saturday, have occurred regularly despite a rigorous internet outage. — AFP

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