Sotto and online libelCebu Daily News
Ironies abound in President Benigno Aquino III’s signing into law new regulations on cybercrime.
This law that was supposed to serve as a tool to help rid society of cyberbullies, on line porn operators and spammers could also be an instrument of oppression by the “one percent” elite in government who feel threatened by a vigilant press and an emerging online community.
Both the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) have criticized approval of the law. They said it would reduce democratic space by allowing the offended parties who are rich and powerful to file libel suits against media outlets and anyone who posts what they consider defamatory and libelous statements in Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms.
The National Press Club welcomed the passage of the law instead of being a vanguard for press freedom. To their credit, they clarified their statement later, perhaps after learning about the online libel provision.
It’s no small irony that the online libel provision was inserted by Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who drew fire from the blogging community with his alleged plagiarism of bloggers’s articles and a speech by the late Robert Kennedy.
Raissa Robles pointed this out in her article “Who Inserted that libel clause in the Cyber Crime Law at the last minute?” in her blog “Inside Philippine Politics and Beyond.”
She said the senator equated or lumped libel together with such venal crimes as cybersex, child porn and advertising spam under the law.
It’s interesting to note that the law is signed eight months before the national elections, she notes.
Despite Sotto’s threats of retaliation against bloggers who accused him of plagiarism, Robles said one would never have realized that he was allowed to get away with inserting, nay copy-pasting the online libel provision by his colleagues, some of whom actually credited their rise to power by establishing their name in media (paging Sen. Loren Legarda).
Senator Sotto can be asked about this again in Cebu. He is tomorrow’s guest speaker in a forum about the media’s role in election politics as part of the annual observance of Cebu Press Freedom Week.
With added irony, Sotto’s great grandfather is the late senator Vicente Sotto a newspaper publisher, and the author of the Press Freedom Law.
Also called the “Sotto Law”, Republic Act No. 53 protects the journalist from being compelled to name his news source. It was intended to keep irate politicians from intimidating journalists and their sources if they didn’t like what they read.
Senator Sotto has a lot to answer for not only to the media but to every freedom-loving Filipino concerning his copy-paste insertion of the online libel provision in the cybercrime law.
President Aquino who signed the new law is himself the son of a senator who started out as a news correspondent and was jailed under the regime of a president who co-opted the national media during Martial Law.
More from this Column:
- To concede is an act of grace
- Cleaning up
- For Cebu City in three years
- Plugging the holes
- Fall of (some of ) Cebu’s old guard
Tags: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) , Cybercrime , Internet , Libel , National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) , online libel , President Benigno Aquino III , Vicente Sotto III