BY CHARMAINE P. LIRIO AND ANNA KRISTINA P. VIRTUSIO
Media organizations are not giving up their fight against the right of reply bills, despite failing to get a clear response from House Speaker Prospero Nograles today.
After a closed-door dialogue at the House of Representatives, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Secretary-general Sonny Fernandez said Nograles’ position of favoring the bill was not changed.
“Nang tanungin siya kung na-convince ba namin siya, sabi niya babasahin niya yung petition,” Fernandez said in an interview. (When he was asked if we have convinced him, he said that he would read the petition.)
The NUJP released a petition in February calling for the withdrawal of the bills in both Houses and for the media and public to oppose its passage. As of press time, the petition was signed by more than 700 journalists and media organizations.
“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,” journalists said in their petition.
Fernandez said a copy of the petition was sent to Nograles months before the dialogue.
The media groups, however, said they already expected to get such results from the meeting.
“We don’t have any illusion na ite-take nila and position ng media kasi nga ang bill ay para sa kanila lalo pa’t paparating na ang 2010 elections,” College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) National President Vijae Alquisola said.
Meanwhile, Fernandez said they plan to have weekly activities to show their continued opposition to the bill.
Present in the dialogue are heads and representatives of NUJP, CEGP, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), TV5, Pinoy Weekly and ABS-CBN.
The dialogue, which lasted for about ten minutes, was held because Nograles said in earlier interviews that he would talk to the stakeholders before recommending the bill to the plenary.
A ‘repressive’ bill
Before the dialogue, the NUJP and the CEGP held a protest outside the south gate of the House of Representatives. They said the bill was pointless since journalists are already obliged to always report all the sides of a story.
“[Ang Right of Reply Bill ay] malinaw na paglabag sa Article 3 Section 4 ng 1987 Philippine Constituion,” said Fernandez. (The Right of Reply Bill is clearly a violation of Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.)
Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
“Ang batas na ito ay represibo. Maraming publikasyon ang napipintong magsara,” Alquisola added.(The bill is repressive. Many publications will be threatened to close down.)
If passed, the Right of Reply bill, will mandate the media to publish or air the replies of any person subject to criticisms or accused of any crime or offense in the same space of the publications or in the same program on radio, television, website or through any electronic device where the issue first came out.
The Right of Reply bill was first filed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel as Senate Bill 1178 in June 2004. It was re-filed in June 2007 and was approved in June 2008.
In July 2008, the bill was passed and substituted by SB 2150.
Meanwhile, Representatives Monico Puentevella and Juan Edgardo Angara filed HB 1001 and HB 162 respectively, as counterparts of the SB 2150. These were combined and substituted by HB 3306.
The bill is among the priority measures of the House of Representatives before it adjourns on June 6.(Bulatlat.com)