IFJ Calls for Support for Press Freedom Campaign in Philippines

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National

Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in promoting a signature campaign to oppose a

proposed Right of Reply Bill in the Philippines.

 

The NUJP, an IFJ affiliate, is concerned that the

proposed Bill will allow for the violation of media independence and freedom of

expression in the Philippines.

 

The Bill

includes articles which would legislate what the media must publish in cases where

individuals or organisations seek redress for media reports with which they

disagree. The NUJP fears that the

Bill will encourage the media and journalists to self-censor, particularly with

regard to media investigations into allegations of corruption and organised

crime.

 

The IFJ fully supports the NUJP in its view that legitimate grievances with

media reporting must be dealt with through open mediation and self-regulating

mechanisms, and not by enforcement of a law that risks imposing restrictions on

media reporting in the public interest.

 

“The IFJ calls on the ruling

authorities and civil society in the Philippines to affirm respect for

the principle that all disputes on media coverage and content are best resolved

in a democratic society through a process of dialogue and constructive

mediation,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

The IFJ encourages its affiliates

and other press freedom organisations to support the independence of the media

in the Philippines

by signing onto the NUJP campaign.

 

So far, 426 individuals have signed

the petition. Media organisations which have signed include the NUJP, the IFJ, Business World, the Center for Media

Freedom and Responsibility, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Cebu

Citizens-Press Council, GMA News and Public Affairs, ABS CBN News and Public

Affairs, Kodao Productions, Publishers Association of General Santos City,

South Cotabato and Sarangani (PAGES), Malacañang Press Corps, the Philippine

Press Club of Ontario (PPCO) Canada and the Foundation for Media Alternatives

(FMA)

 

Below is the NUJP’s

“Unified Statement on the Right of Reply Bill”. Please send your endorsement of

this statement – as an individual or organisation – to the NUJP at nujpnews@googlegroups.com.

1. The Right of Reply Bill is an

ill-conceived piece of legislation that violates two of the most cherished

freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, those of the press and of

expression.


2. It is both unfortunate and ironic that the principal authors of the bill in

the two chambers of Congress ought to have known better, Senator Aquilino

Pimentel Jr. having earned his reputation as a champion of civil rights and

Bacolod Representative Monico Puentevella having been president of the Negros

Press Club.


3. It is also clear, from the pronouncements of both lawmakers, that this bill

is a product of the sorriest excuse for legislation – personal pique.


4. The House version of the bill, HB 3306, parrots the Senate's SB2150 except

it would have the reply run a day after receipt  instead of the three days the Senate grants, and seeks to impose heftier

fines and the absence of self-regulation (in the case of block-timers) and

sunset clauses.


5. Both bills state that "all persons…who are accused directly or

indirectly of committing, having committed or intending to commit any crime or

offense defined by law, or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for

any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply

to charges or criticisms published or printed in newspapers, magazines,

newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or aired or

broadcast over radio, television, websites, or through any electronic

devices."


6. They also would mandate that these replies be "published or broadcast

in the same space of the newspapers, magazine, newsletter or publication, or

aired over the same program on radio, television, website or through any

electronic device."


7. The danger in the right of reply bill is that it would legislate what the

media OUGHT to publish or air, while casting a chilling effect that could

dissuade the more timorous from publishing or airing what they SHOULD.


8. The bills would free public officials, especially the corrupt – and they are

legion – of accountability and give them carte blanche to force their lies on

the suffering public.


9. As one article on the right of reply bill says, “It lumps together imputations

of a crime with simple criticism ‘of any lapse in behavior in public or private

life’ or what would otherwise be considered ‘fair comment.’ There is no

judicial review. It does not differentiate direct and indirect criticism. It

has been noted that under the proposed law a journalist does not even have to

be in error to draw a right of reply claim."


10. We would be the last to say that the Philippine media are without fault.

Yes, we understand perfectly the frustration and anger of Pimentel and Puentevella

over some media outlet's refusal to air their sides on issues.


11. Alas, but we cannot allow the sins of the few to be an excuse for the

wholesale muzzling of a free press and the suppression of free expression. To

do so would allow bad governance to triumph.

12. We call on Senator Pimentel and Representative Puentevella to withdraw

their bills.


13. We urge the media and the people to close ranks against the passage of this

bill, to challenge it before the Supreme Court if it is passed, and, if even

that fails, to defy it by refusing to comply.


14. No less than our freedoms are at stake. This is a battle we cannot afford

to lose.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in

120 countries worldwide