THE COUNTRY’S national organization of journalists has decried the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the online libel provision of Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Act.
In a statement sent to news organizations, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) described the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday as “a half-inch forward but a century backward.”
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the provision in RA 10175 recognizing the crime of online libel. The Court however struck down several other controversial provisions in the 2012 law, including those that allow government to collect real-time traffic data and block or restrict access to internet material it deems criminal in nature without a warrant.
The Tribunal also ruled that only the original author or producer of a libelous statement can be held liable, and not those who receive, respond, or react to the statement.
The NUJP said the decision upholding the concept of online libel adds another element “to an offense that former colonizers had, a hundred years ago, declared criminal in nature to stifle dissent.”
The group also hinted that it may file a motion to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.
“For while the high court rightly declared a number of provisions of the statute unconstitutional, it otherwise upheld the law and, worse, online libel, thus adding yet another element — ironically the very frontier we all believed would be most immune to attempts to suppress free expression — to an offense that former colonizers had, a hundred years ago, declared criminal in nature to stifle dissent, and which succeeding governments have conveniently retained in our Revised Penal Code for the very same reason and as a convenient tool for the corrupt and the inept in power to harass and muzzle those with the temerity to bring their venalities to light,” the NUJP statement said.
“By extending the reach of the antediluvian libel law into cyberspace, the Supreme Court has suddenly made a once infinite venue for expression into an arena of fear, a hunting ground for the petty and vindictive, the criminal and autocratic,” the statement added. “We can only hope that the Supreme Court will not remain blind to this when appeals to the ruling are filed.”