MANILA, Philippines--The controversial right of reply bill will not only affect print and broadcast media, but could lead to Internet censorship since it also covers bloggers, ?texters? and even iPod users, a party-list lawmaker warned Saturday.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Mong Palatino said the bill?s sponsor in the House, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, admitted during interpellation that House Bill No. 3306 also covers websites, e-mails, Internet social networking sites and other electronic devices in its scope.
Palatino noted that Section 1 of HB 3306 states, ?All persons, natural or judicial, who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed, or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to charges or criticisms published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites or through any electronic device.?
?The bill, therefore, would not only affect media outfits and journalists but also all website owners, website masters, e-mail account holders and other netizens who are not necessarily media practitioners,? said Palatino who has been a blogger since 2004.
He said the bill would affect ?the more than five million bloggers and millions more of Internet users in the country.?
?My fear is that when this bill comes to law, it will be used to regulate the content of the Internet, when we are checking our e-mails, when we open our Friendster or Facebook accounts, when we are checking our websites. Does this mean that we will be compelled to moderate, modify or edit our personal websites? Is this not Internet censorship and suppression of freedom of speech and expression?? Palatino said.
?Does this mean that whenever a criticism is published in these venues a person can use the Right of Reply to compel a blogger or moderator of a social networking site to publish a space or a reply for that person? Or when an individual decides to copy or repost an article from a news website in his or her personal blog, and in the future the said article becomes a subject of this Right of Reply, will he or she be sanctioned or fined also?? he said.
In reply, Abante said the bill would be defined more clearly through its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
?Primarily, this bill refers to media publications and practitioners. I would think it will be defined more on the IRR,? he said.
But Palatino said that Congress should just remove the line ?any electronic device? in the bill?s first section. The bill is still up for amendments in the House.
?Again, this would affect more than 60 million mobile phone users and iPod owners in the country,? Palatino said.
Palatino said he would oppose the right of reply bill on the grounds that it violates the freedom of the press and the public?s freedom of speech and expression. He also said he was not amenable even to a ?watered down? version of the bill because it merely ?renders the Right of Reply pointless.?
He also encouraged bloggers, netizens, texters and concerned youth to register their opposition to the ?apparent railroading of the bill in Congress.?