Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Case of Libel

The most remarkable case of libel I know about is that of Reynolds vs. Pegler in the United States--
a landmark libel decision in which Quentin Reynolds successfully sued right-wing columnist Westbrook Pegler, resulting in a record judgement of $175,001.
One dollar compensatory, the rest punitive.

Mr. Reynold's lawyer, Louis Nizer, wrote about it in his book, My Life In Court, a copy of which was recently lent to me by the Office of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and in which we find the following passage at the very end of his essay entitled, Reputation --
[Being taken from Louis Nizer's oral argument before the US Court of Appeals that later upheld the Plaintiff]

LOUIS NIZER: "The purpose of punitive damages is to punish and to act as a deterrent. Unless the damages 'smart,' unless they cause some pain to the defendants, there is no deterrent and no punishment.

"Reckless attacks equivalent to character assassination have become too frequent an occurrence in personal column editorializing. Newspapers are like cannon. They must not be shot carelessly and with abandon.

"This case afforded an opportunity to prote4ct the individual from malicious libel; to inculcate a revived sense of responsibility in newspapers; to encourage the old tradition of checking facts, and to control reckless writers who build circulation by extremism and sensationalism."
Is the Philippines undergoing a Nizer Moment with respect to libel?

The First Gentleman Mike Arroyo has recently filed over forty cases of libel against editors, reporters, broadcast journalists, and columnists in the Philippines. They, in turn, are pushing back with their class action law suit against him alleging "abuse of power."

Cheche Lazaro's Media In Focus program today, Thursday at 6pm on ABSCBN News ANC, will be tackling this fascinating topic on television.


manuelbuencamino said...

good to see ur posting again
saw the show. good performance. noticed that you were concerned about the results or repercussions while your protagonist was concerned only about fighting.

Teddy Boy brought up a very interesting fact - el esposos gordo is not suing publishers only reporters

Amadeo said...


Since you cited US jurisprudence, here's a short and basic defamation primer.