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Special Torts

Violation of Civil/Political Right/s


Newsweek v IAC
Facts:
Incorporated associations of sugarcane planters in Negros Occidental led a case in
their own behalf and/or as a class suit in behalf of all sugarcane planters in the province
against Newsweek Inc. and two of their non-resident correspondents/reporters, Fred
Bruning and Barry Came alleging that petitioner committed libel against them by the
publication of the article "An Island of Fear" in their magazine which portrayed the island
as a place dominated by big landowners or sugarcane planters who exploited the
impoverished sugarcane laborers and brutalized and killed them with impunity. They
claim

it

showed

a malicious

use of

falsehood, slanted

presentation and

misrepresentation of facts, putting them in a bad light. Petitioner argues that private
respondents' complaint failed to state a cause of action because the complainant made
no allegation that anything contained in the article referred specically to any one of
them and libel can be committed only against individual reputation or, if directed at a
group, there is defamation only if the libel can be said to reach beyond the mere
collectivity to do damage to a specic, individual group member's reputation.
Issue: Whether or not private respondents has a cause of action
Held:
Private respondents complaint was dismissed.
There is no cause of action. In order to maintain a libel suit, it is essential that the victim
be identiable, although it is not necessary that he be named.Defamatory matter which
does not reveal the identity of the person upon whom the imputation is case affords no
ground of action unless it be shown that the readers could have identied the

personality of the individual defamed. This principle is important especially where a


group or class of persons claim to have been defamed because the larger the
collectivity, the more difcult it is for the individual member to prove that the defamatory
remarks apply to him. Where the defamatory is alleged to have been directed at a group
or class, the statement must be so sweeping or all-embracing as to apply to every
individual in the that group sufciently specic so that each individual can prove the
defamatory statement specically pointed to him so that he can bring action separately.
The case is NOT a class suit. The plaintiffs here have a separate and distinct reputation
in the community. They do not have a common or general interest in this controversy.The disputed portion of the article that they claim is libelous never singled out plaintiff as
a sugar planter. The report merely stated that the victim has been arrested by members
of a special police unit brought into the area by Sola, the mayor of Kabankalan. The
report, referring as it does to an ofcial act performed by an elective public ofcial, is
within the realm of privilege and protected by the constitutional guarantees of
freespeech and press.The article in question is not libelous in nature. Undoubtedly, the
statements in the article are sweeping and exaggerated, but these articles may also
serve to prick the consciences of those who have but are not doing anything or enough
for those who do not have.