Journalists, Lawmakers Debate ‘Right of Reply’ Bill

The Senate version of the RORB directs media companies to publish or air the reply within three days of receipt, while the House only gives a one-day deadline. It was approved on the third and final reading last year.

More Lenient and Responsive Version

In the House of Representatives, Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella, principal author of the bill, proposed amendments to the measure to make it “acceptable” to the opposition.

He added that the said amendments to the bill had made the House version “more lenient and responsive.”

In the amendments he filed, Puentevella said that jail terms for journalists had also been removed, and the maximum fine reduced to P100,000 from P200,000.

Other changes to the bill include the removal of a provision that would close down publications or networks for 30 days for successive violations of the right to reply and granting media outlets three days instead of just one day to publish replies. Editors will also have discretion over the placement of the reply “subject to location and visibility.”

”Editorial discretion in editing the reply is also protected, as long as the full gist of the reply is published,” Puentevella added.

He also pointed out that the reply would be limited only to the first instance, as an answer to the original publication or broadcast.

Under the amended version, a congressional oversight committee would be formed to monitor the implementation of the law. The Office of the Press Secretary, the Philippine Information Agency the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster ng Pilipinas, the National Press Club and major television and cable TV networks will be asked to formulate implementing rules and regulations.

NUJP, however, stressed that bill will always be abusive and restrictive despite the proposed amendments. They added that by removing imprisonment as a penalty only makes it ‘deceptive’.

“Watering it down will not do. Passing it so someone can claim credit as a defender of press freedoms for shooting it down later will not do. The only right thing to do is withdraw this onerous bill and solemnly pledge to the people that never again shall government – both executive and legislature – attempt to prevent the free flow of information, without which democracy cannot exist, by muzzling the independent press,” the group said.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles said majority of lawmakers want to subject the controversial Right of Reply bill to plenary discussions, amid vehement opposition from several media groups.

“House survey shows that overwhelming majority supports the right of reply bill. But my personal position on this issue is this: I would like to conduct more dialog and consultations with the stakeholders before recommending the committee on public information to endorse this to the plenary,” Nograles explained.

He added that “personally, I support this Right of Reply measure but it should go hand-in-hand with the proposal to decriminalize libel. Let’s face it, while some media practitioners always make it a point to balance their stories by getting all sides before publication or airing, there are also some who do not. On the other hand, many of the media practitioners that I’ve talked to also complain that public officials do not answer calls when they are asked to reply on issues raised against them.”

Nograles, who had sent a journalist in Davao City to jail for allegedly airing malicious stories about him, announced on Wednesday that the decriminalization of libel was passed on the second reading under House Bill 5760.

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