The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in condemning the decision by the Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday February 18 to uphold the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The NUJP alongside other media and free speech organisations held ‘Black Tuesday’ protests across the Philippines, online and on social media on February 25 to rally media workers and free speech activists against the controversial decision to uphold the 2012 laws that criminalise a host of online activities including libel, system and data interferences and illegal access and interception of computer and cyberspace data.
The NUJP and the IFJ have previously levelled strong criticism at the bill for its inclusion of libel among the crimes that may be committed online. In October 2012 the Supreme Court ordered a 120 day restraining order on the laws after the NUJP was joined by bloggers, netizens, human rights groups and progressive legislators in questioning the legitimacy of the law and demanding its repeal.
In its decision on February 18 2014, the Supreme Court removed several provisions that it found incongruous to the freedoms of expression and speech. The provisions that were struck from the laws included the ability for the government to collect real-time data and to restrict access to websites without a warrant.
The NUJP said that despite the removal of these provisions, the laws remained an attack on expression in the Philippines.
“While the Supreme Court rightly declared a number of provisions of the statute unconstitutional, it otherwise upheld the law. This decision is a half-inch forward but a century backward,” NUJP secretary general Rupert Mangilit said.
“By extending the reach of the antediluvian libel law into cyberspace, the Supreme Court has suddenly made a once infinite venue for expression into an arena of fear, a hunting ground for the petty and vindictive, the criminal and autocratic.”
The IFJ joins the NUJP in calling for a repeal of this decision and for the government of the Philippines to re-draft these laws so that they do not curtail the ability for a journalist to do their job without fear of legal recrimination through fines or jail time.