A newspaper should not be held to account to a point of suppression for honest mistakes, or imperfection in the choice of words. While, indeed, the allegation of inappropriate sexual advances in an appeal of a contempt ruling does not turn such case into one for sexual harassment, we agree with petitioners’ proposition that the subject news article’s author, not having any legal training, cannot be expected to make the fine distinction between a sexual harassment suit and a suit where there was an allegation of sexual harassment. In fact, three other newspapers reporting the same incident committed the same mistake: the Manila Times article was headlined “Judge in sex case now in physical injury rap”; the Philippine Star article described Judge Cruz as “(a) Makati judge who was previously charged with sexual harassment by a lady prosecutor”; and the Manila Standard Article referred to him as “(a) Makati judge who was reportedly charged with sexual harassment by a lady fiscal.”
In Borjal v. Court of Appeals, we held that “[a] newspaper especially one national in reach and coverage, should be free to report on events and developments in which the public has a legitimate interest with minimum fear of being hauled to court by one group or another on criminal or civil charges for libel, so long as the newspaper respects and keeps within the standards of morality and civility prevailing within the general community.” Like fair commentaries on matters of public interest, fair reports on the same should thus be included under the protective mantle of privileged communications, and should not be subjected to microscopic examination to discover grounds of malice or falsity. The concept of privileged communication is implicit in the constitutionally protected freedom of the press, which would be threatened when criminal suits are unscrupulously leveled by persons wishing to silence the media on account of unfounded claims of inaccuracies in news reports.