Members of the Davao media held a protest today right in front of the Davao Prisons and Penal Farm, formerly known as Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) where Davao broadcaster Alexander Adonis is still detained in spite of an order from the court to release him on bail.
The protesting journalists, numbering about 30, went on a convoy dubbed as “Caravan for Press Freedom” which left Freedom Park along Roxas Boulevard in Davao City at 8:30 am and arrived at Dapecol in Davao del Norte, at about past ten in the morning.
At the gates of Dapecol, they unfurled a streamer that called for the decriminalization of libel and the release of Adonis.
It will be recalled that on May 26, Jail Warden Venancio Tesoro refused the release of Adonis even after journalists presented him an order from Judge George Omelio of the Regional Trial Court 14, that specifically directed him to release Adonis after posting a P5000 bail.
Journalists led by National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Davao Chapters contested the continued detention of Adonis citing it as “illegal.”
They also considered Tesoro’s action as “an affront to the justice system.”
This statement was read at the gates of the Dapecol before they proceeded to present to the jail warden a copy of the petition for the issuance of the writ of habeas corpus which was filed by the Center for Media Responsibility (CMFR) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), together with lawyers Harry Roque and Rommel Bagares, at the Supreme Court last Friday, May 30, 2008:
Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas – Davao National Union of Journalists of the Philippines – Davao
CARAVAN FOR PRESS FREEDOM
(A journey from Freedom Park to Dapecol to protest the continued detention of Colleague Alexander “Lex” Adonis)
June 03, 2008
We are thankful that a lot of our media colleagues are here today. This presence, an expression of warm support, is truly invigorating and just what is most needed in this long and arduous task we are taking to a free a colleague in jail.
Long and arduous indeed because right from the start of our colleague’s fight, the circumstances were already telling how difficult it really is to be a lone newsman fighting a giant.
That was how it would have just been until we started to find out what strength we could make if only we come together.
Gradually, we have seen how our united actions have taken a meaning, for how else we could have reached this point of fighting?
May 26, we were almost there – all excited, bringing a court order, and the brightest of all hopes just thinking that we could finally fetch our colleague out and let him experience the light of the day, out and away from the cold bars, albeit, temporarily.
But that chance of colleague Alexander “Lex” Adonis out of jail was deprived of him because some people have made a mockery out of due process. With Adonis in jail, a part of us also goes with him behind bars.
The incarceration of Adonis for libel is a threat and will continue to be a threat to the freedoms of the practicing press. For how else could we believe that press freedom in the country is that vibrant when a colleague who was just doing his job has been punished like Adonis has suffered?
With Adonis in jail, how far still can the guarantees provided in our press freedom laws – that say reporting on public issues, such as actions of public officials is part of the job – go, in as far as protection of the press in the conduct of our duties is concerned?
How far still when we know for a fact that a lot of powers-that-be in our society have used libel with its draconian nature to intimidate the press, as evidenced by the growing number of cases of colleagues threatened with libel mostly by powerful officials who are the subjects of their critical reportage?
In the first place, don’t public officials understand that the very meaning of their positions in society is to be ready to be put under public scrutiny?
We deplore the criminal nature of libel law in the country because it has caused undue suffering on our colleague and has put on threats in the conduct of our jobs, our duties to democracy.
We deplore actions of state officials who are responsible for the continued detention of our colleague for no valid legal reason, a clear affront to the justice system.
We are ready to fight each step of the way to remove any attempt to undermine the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the working press.
We shall continue to forge solidarity to defend press freedom committing ourselves to vigilance as the way to earn it for us and for the people, believing that the protection of journalists and media workers is vital not simply for freedom of the press, but also of a functioning democracy.
JOURNALISTS, LET US UNITE TO DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM!
Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas-Davao
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Davao
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