House defers debate on Right to Reply Bill

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — BECAUSE of many contentious issues, Speaker Prospero Nograles has asked the House of Representatives to defer its plenary discussion on the Right of Reply Bill.

Nograles said he will first consult several national media groups to determine their sentiments on the proposed law before Congress approves it.

The Senate has already approved the measure.

According to Nograles, he has instructed the House Committee on Rules to put its discussion in the plenary on hold until after his dialogue with media organizations.

“Next week I will host a dinner with top officers of various media groups. Dialogue will cure this problem. Lack of it will cause grave misunderstanding. We shall avoid the latter,” Nograles said.

The House leader is puzzled by the way the media reacted to the bill which he said did not originate from them but the Senate.

“Let’s look for a win-win solution, I just do not know why media is looking at the House when it was the Senate that voted 21-0. Now we are the one in the hot seat,” he added.

Nograles said that consultations with the media groups will ensure that the measure will not trample on freedoms of the press and of expression.

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

“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,” he added.

Under the bill, a media entity is required to print or air the replies of subjects of news articles. Those who violate the law shall be penalized with hefty fines, imprisonment, or even closure.

The reply should have the same space, time and prominence as the original article.