Cebu Citizens-Press Council

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Cebu Media Legal Aid launched

November 25th, 2006 · No Comments

Nine lawyers on Nov. 24, 2006 signed a public commitment as volunteers to the Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla), which will provide pro bono assistance to journalists with inadequate or no counsel in answering complaints for libel and other violations of law.

They are Eddie O. Barrita, Elias L. Espinoza, Piedad Y. Gonzalez, Lucille Karen Malilong-Isberto, Francisco M. Malilong Jr., Fritz V. Quiñanola, Ma. Dee Seares-del Rosario, Pedro A. Rosito, and Rosemarie Olaño-Versoza.

Most of the signatories are journalists themselves or have experience in journalism. These are the members of the core group. Cemla is still accepting other volunteers.

Pachico A. Seares, acting coordinator, and Bobby Nalzaro witnessed the ceremony at East Ocean restaurant in Cebu City.

Seares and Nalzaro said Cemla is a twin project of Cebu Media Medical Aid Fund (Cemmaf) which they and other Cebu media persons also initiated, with Cebu News Workers Foundation (Cenewof) as conduit.

Aside from seeking to help defend journalists in lawsuits, Cemla aims to set up a database on journalism law and ethics at the MBF Cebu Press Center that will help lawyers, journalists, and mass communication students in their work and study.

The document they signed lists the basic policies and procedures of Cemla in providing legal aid. Below is the agreement they signed.

That we are aware of, and believe in, the goals and purposes of the Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla): first, to help defend journalists against cases of libel, contempt, and similar complaints that arise from the exercise of journalism; and second, to set up a database on journalism law and court decisions that will help law practitioners and their clients and journalists and journalism students;
That most of us are journalists ourselves or had experience in journalism and know how journalists can be harassed, if not oppressed, by litigation and how often litigation is used to punish or gag journalists;
That many journalists and their organizations cannot bear the total cost of litigation without their media operations being hamstrung or prejudiced;
That the Cebu press is free but responsible, with institutions like the Cebu News Workers Foundation (Cenewof), the MBF Cebu Press Center, and the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) helping protect the freedom and enhance the sense of responsibility of the press;
That the Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla) is a twin project of the Cebu Media Medical Aid Fund (Cemmaf) as the community’s support to a free and responsible press;
That support may be in the form of legal services to help defend the journalist, be it in preparing pleadings, doing research, or appearing in court;
That Cemla may decide not to support a case when it finds blatant violation of journalism and other laws by the journalist or apparent repetitiveness and serial character of the offenses;
That a lawyer in the Cemla pool may not take part in a specific case if he sees conflict of interest, actual or potential, or thinks it will otherwise prejudice his law practice;
That Cemla’s help in a case shall be acknowledged in writing by the journalist and the head of his news organization and the nature of the assistance be defined, especially when the journalist or news organization has its own legal counsel;
That a Cemla lawyer’s services shall be basically pro bono but a journalist and his news organization and/or Cemla itself, when funds are available, may pay for incidental expenses of the Cemla lawyer;
That Cemla’s assistance shall be extended only to full-time or part-time members of the Cebu working press (as certified by their respective news organizations), giving priority to those who have inadequate or no legal counsel;
That Cemla shall be a loose organization, coordinated only by an ad hoc director, without prejudice to formal organization, if growth and functional requirements warrant;
That we join the Cemla pool of lawyers, knowing the honor and duty that come with Cemla membership and pledging to do our best to continue to deserve the honor and discharge the duty.

Tags: Announcements · Cebu Media Legal Aid

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