Philippines files sedition charges against publisher, columnists

New York, March 7, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Philippine authorities’ decision to file charges of inciting sedition against the publisher and two columnists of the Manila-based Daily Tribune newspaper.

The government filed the charges against Publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivares and columnists Ike Seneres and Herman Tiu-Laurel on Friday, just three hours after President Gloria Arroyo lifted a weeklong state of emergency.

The Daily Tribune, known for its critical coverage of Arroyo’s administration, ran a series of articles in February predicting and analyzing the government’s possible motivations for imposing a state of emergency. Cacho-Olivares told CPJ that the indictment did not specify the offending Daily Tribune articles or columns. She filed a petition today appealing to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Philippine constitution protects press freedom during times of national crisis.

“We’re gravely concerned that sedition laws are being used to retaliate against a critical publication. The Philippine government should drop these charges and affirm its commitment and remove laws that inhibit the work of the press,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director.

Acting under Arroyo’s declaration of emergency, Philippine police raided the Daily Tribune on February 25 without a warrant. Authorities padlocked the paper’s printing presses overnight, seized documents and unpublished story drafts, and posted police officials at the newspaper’s office for one week, Cacho-Olivares said. The newspaper continued publication.

Arroyo issued a state of emergency on February 24. She cited a coup plot by dissident soldiers, communist groups and her legitimate political opposition, as her justification. The president lifted the proclamation on March 3, saying that the plot had been foiled. The Philippines Supreme Court started holding hearings on the legitimacy of her decisions on March 7.

Philippine police said that they will continue to monitor the media.