MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker has proposed to prohibit the mention of religious or ethnic affiliation in media reports of criminal suspects.
In a statement released Sunday, Lanao del Sur Representative Pangalian Balindong said he filed House Bill 1447 to prohibit the use of the words “Muslim” and “Christian” to describe suspects of unlawful acts.
He said the so-called practice of “labeling criminal suspects according to their religious or ethnic culture,” as in the case of reports mentioning “Muslim terrorists or Muslim bandits,” is discriminatory.
“Indeed, our Muslim brothers are a minority among the Filipino majority, but should be treated with the same respect and privileges as any other Batangueño, Visayan or other Filipino citizen,” Balindong said.
The Deputy Speaker for Mindanao said under his bill, “it shall be unlawful for any person to use in mass media, any word that would denote religious, regional or ethnic affiliation to describe any person suspected of or convicted for having committed criminal or unlawful acts.”
If approved into law, violators may be imprisoned for at least six months or fined not more than P10,000, depending on the court decision.
Editors or the media company may also be held liable.