Reply Bill will curtail press freedom — media

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — CONGRESS should stop treating media like a special sector by passing the Right of Reply Bill (RoRB), saying journalists are ordinary representatives of the people that should not be suppressed on matters of important public concerns.

During the Weekly Ayes and Nays media forum in Quezon City, Jose “Joe” Torres, spokesman of the National People’s Media and Press Center, stressed that RoRB is meant to curtail press freedom and it is making the media as a distinctive sector.

“Congress is trying to look at media as special sector which we are opposing ever since. Media people are representatives of the people and should not be repressed so that the right to information under the Bill of Rights of the Constitution will be carried out,” said Torres.

In the same forum, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo agreed with Torres, saying Congress might trample on the people’s right to information by pushing the RoRB which is a curtailment of the freedom of the press, expression and speech.

“The right of the people to information is affected,” said Ocampo as he asked the House leadership to freeze the deliberations on RoRB.

Joel “Boy Cute” Egco, a senior reporter of Manila Standard Today and director of the National Press Club (NPC), asked Congress to junk the proposal, adding that media groups are already giving the right to reply to those who are subject of news reports and expose.

“We are for the outright junking of the measure because there are enough safeguards to the existing laws. We are also giving space for the reply. We will not stop the fight even if it reaches the Supreme Court,” Egco told reporters in the same forum.

House Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor, who also attended the forum, said only the majority decision of the House members to reject it would stop the House of Representatives from pushing the bill.

Defensor proposed that media institutions and authors of the measure can iron out their differences during the Holy Week recess by rewriting the bill after the House committee on public information approved it.

It will be recalled that the House version of RoRB contained under HB No. 3306 is principally authored by Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella while Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. sponsored the counterpart bill.

The measure will require media institutions to print and air the replies of subjects of news articles and imposing hefty fines, imprisonment, and closure of media outfits who will not abide.

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