NO 2 E-LIBEL
Statement of Totol Batuhan
I join today the voices against libel being included in the Cybercrime Prevention Act. I am, in fact, supportive of decriminalizing libel. Journalists have long been complaining that libel had been used to harass them and curtail press freedom.
Take this as an example. For airing a tabloid article about an alleged extramarital encounter of a politician, Davao radio commentator Alex Adonis was convicted of libel and imprisoned in 2007.
Let us congratulate ourselves for a crucial victory in the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court. This is not complete however. Perhaps, this is a time to breathe. But amendments to the law to ensure the protection of Internet freedom has yet to be achieved.
This case led to the declaration of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) earlier this January 2012 that criminal libel laws in the Philippines are “incompatible with the freedom of expression protected under international human rights law.” The UNHRC continued that the Philippines government “should take appropriate actions to reform its libel laws to conform with international standards.”
Yet criminal libel was inserted to the Cybercrime bill also last January 2012 without any hearing. The outdated law on libel was lifted from the Revised Penal Code to regulate with a stiffer penalty our online conversations that includes posting, commenting, liking, tagging, and sharing content with friends and followers.
Not contented, our legislators further raised the penalty for online libel. While we need more the freedom of information (FOI) and reproductive health bills, these have not been passed. Yet, the FOI and RH bills have been more thoroughly discussed in and out the Halls of the Lower House and the Senate than the so-called Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
We, who are committed to transparency and freedom of expression, should act against online libel.
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