“Think before you click.”
This was the lesson that GMA 7 executive Annette Gozon-Abrogar said she wanted former Kapuso contract artist Sarah Lahbati to learn when she filed a libel case against the latter in January.
“I did it because I didn’t want it to happen to other people,” Abrogar said during GMA Artist Center’s digital media launch on July 2. “With all the social media websites that we have now, it’s so easy to post comments. People think social media is not governed by criminal law in the Philippines, but it is. I want them to know this.”
In January, on her Twitter account, Lahbati accused Abrogar of engaging in “under-the-table deals” with another talent management group. In June, the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office announced that it found probable cause to charge Lahbati with libel.
“In GMA 7, we have this campaign that says ‘Think before you click.’ Social-media [websites] are very powerful venues … We teach our artists to be responsible and to set a good example to other people on how to use these in positive ways,” Abrogar told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The network executive added: “I’m not very active on the Internet but whenever I go online, I read about different cases of cyberbullying. Social media should be used for the good. It’s dangerous to not lay down rules for using them.”
Abrogar said she would welcome a sitdown with Lahbati, “but [she needs] to know what is right. People in print media, for example, know [that they should] not go beyond the bounds of propriety, or to intentionally damage another person’s reputation. This should also hold true in social media.”
Abrogar, also a lawyer, however noted, “The libel law in social media is still being developed.”
Yet, she is confident she has a strong case. “As a lawyer, I’m well aware of the facts of the case and what laws should be applied,” she pointed out. “I’m not trying to locate her (Lahbati). It’s been said that she’s in Switzerland. The case is for arraignment so if ever she’s here in Manila, she has to appear in court and post bail.”
On their recently launched website, gmanetwork.com/artistcenter, which is dedicated to the Kapuso’s talent management arm, Abrogar said its aim “is to give information about our artists, but not to encourage people to react. This website is controlled and managed by GMA 7, which can easily remove any comments … deemed below the belt. It’s more of a content website.”
She said the website encourages Kapuso artists to have a stronger presence online. “That’s why we’ve been guiding our talents on how to use the Internet and social media sites properly.”