(Photo courtesy: Guru Press)

Brent Martinez and Ghumie Pinkihan — editors of Guru Press in Tabuk, Kalinga — paid P192,000 in bail on Friday, August 27, over a cyber libel case fled by the town’s mayor.

According to a report on Guru Press, the warrants for the arrest of Martinez and Pinkihan for two counts of cyber libel were released Friday, prompting them to surrender and post bail.

The case is over two articles that Guru Press published in July and August 2020 on allegedly overpiced thermal scanners that the city bought and that Mayor Darwin Estrañero said were meant to malign him.

Martinez and Pinkihan filed a motion for reconsideration on their indictment by the City Prosecutor’s Office earlier this month but this was denied on August 25.

The arraignment and pre-trial conference on the case will be on September 17.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines as well as press freedom and freedom of expression groups and advocates have long been calling for the decriminalization of libel.

Aside from killings, threats and physical assault, media practitioners have been prone to intimidation through limiting and punitive laws and bills such as libel and cybercrime laws. These measures create a chilling effect, discouraging journalists to report truthful, relevant and critical information.

Of 37 libel cases monitored between July 2016 and April this year, 20 were filed during the pandemic.

NUJP Safety Office