Police records aren’t bases for libel: Acosta-A A +A
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
A COUNCILOR said Tuesday that the media must not be slapped with libel charges when their published report came from a reliable source like a police blotter.
Councilor Maria Belen Acosta, chair for education, science and technology, arts and culture, expressed alarm over the recent conviction of Sun.Star Davao editor-in-chief Stella A. Estremera and its former publisher Antonio M. Ajero as it has reached "implications in democratic institutions".
Judge Carmelita Sarno-Davin of Regional Trial Court in Digos, Davao del Sur found Estremera and Ajero guilty of libel for failing to get the side of complainant Baguio Saripada, formerly of the Digos City General Services Office, before publishing the story dated July 28, 2003 entitled "32 pushers ug user mitahan (32 pushers and users surrender)" in Sun.Star SuperBalita Davao.
Acosta raised the matter of concern over the two media practitioners in her privilege speech during the regular session of the 17th City Council on Tuesday, September 10.
In her speech, the legislator echoed what the article of the Asian Human Rights Commission (ASHRC) released, questioning the "irregularity of the decision" against Estremera and Ajero.
The ASHRC, in its article, said the two editors "have not damaged the reputation of the complainant for publishing his name in the article" since Estremera and Ajero only sourced their article from an "official police report."
"If any person is to be held accountable it should be the policemen who produced the report, not the editor or the publisher who merely publish by quoting the police report," the ASHRC said.
It said that police reports are presumed to be correct since they are considered as "official documents considered reliable, not only by journalists, but even by the judiciary as accurate and authentic."
Thus, it said the source of the report should handle the utmost responsibility to protect the reputation of the complainant since journalists only report stories about crimes the police investigate.
Acosta said it is in the nature of the job of the journalists, particularly those who are assigned to police beat, to cover police blotters, police reports, police and security matters.
"Now, why media practitioners would be slapped with charges of libel, when what was published came from a reliable source?" Acosta said in her privilege speech.
"Clearly, there is something terribly wrong in this turn of events. Journalists should not be stopped, killed, and prosecuted for stating facts in their report in the practice of their profession," the councilor said. (ANC)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 12, 2013.