LAW ON LIBEL

By: Ben Emata

To my colleagues in the media please watch out your language in exercising our right to press freedom. Know the ethics of journalism to gain respectability, honor and dignity. Be educated, aware and straightforward at all times. Never use vulgar or immoral words to describe someone. Even prostitutes or convicted felons have rights too. If we cannot behave well, journalism is definitely not our field. Better plant kamote or bananas and live happily.

Our right is not absolute, it has limitation and we are covered by law on libel. Never be malicious in your comments.. Do not use the media as a tool to demolish people for personal interest or gain. We can go to jail. There are ways to escape libel if you know. Be aware that the elements of libel are identity, malice and libelous materials. Once the court established that we go beyond these elements, we are finished.

Read books on libel. Better still consult a lawyer and be guided accordingly. Or go back to college – – in the school of journalism and know how to handle the job well with confidence and righteousness. Journalism is a 4-year course that would make us stand vertically. To the old adage “ignorance of the law excuses no one” is definitely in place.

If facing a criminal case for libel, attend sessions and never be over confident. Trust your lawyers and pay him for his legal services unless he volunteers to defend you. When I was charged with 52 cases of libel, 17 lawyers came to my rescue and I got acquitted after five years of legal skirmishes. I learned a lesson on top of those I earned in college.

Many of us were very unfortunate, they were not slapped with libel suits but they died with their boots on. They were assassinated some of them right inside their homes before the terrified eyes of their children. Until now our profession is still the most dangerous ever on the surface of this planet. A barrel of a gun is pointed at us 24 hours a day by critics and hired assassins and if we fail, we fall – – six feet below the ground where only our families will grieve for us

I am not giving you lectures on journalism because I assumed you know it even better than me. I am just reminding you of our posture and the job we handle. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any citizens, no more no less. We are not higher than them much less entitled to better privileges or rights. A sidewalk vendor or any laborer may even stand taller sometimes if their business is good. But people expect us to be highly educated, cultured and professionalized.

One more thing I wish to impart is the issue of corruption in our sector. Some interested persons may give you funding to demolish their enemy or rival or whatever. Never be tempted to accept their money and try to prove you are not vulnerable to repercussions. The old joke “your foolishness will go back to your body” is undying and alive that we must be aware. There is no money in this profession except prestige, honor and pride. I escaped temptation many times in my practice for more than forty years in the Philippines and abroad and even now I am still a poor man. I was offered a house and lot for free, money, favors, etc. etc. which I rejected and I survived from the ugly ordeals and temptation. If you are in doubt about my assets, go to the city assessor’s office or elsewhere and investigate if I ever had accumulated a fortune for my work. To augment my income, I drove a taxi and PUJ jeepney from Cogon market to Gusa because I did not want my family to starve. And I successfully gave the best education to my children.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media. Let us keep honor and dignity in our ranks. Let us always uphold righteousness and never forget the guidance of the Almighty God. We must walk straight and strengthen our path towards success and glory. Let us cherish press freedom at all times – – it is sweet, lovely and honorable. Let us be guided of the laws of libel. BEN EMATA — Bennex News Service

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