February 25, 2014 · Posted in: Access to Information, Civil Society, Edsa Special, Free Expression - Asia, Freedom of Information, General, Governance, Human Rights, In the News, Media, Political Humor, The Internet
MUCH has changed since Ferdinand Marcos was toppled during the People Power Revolt in 1986. But as many have pointed out, there are many things that have also remained the same.
As the nation celebrates the 28th anniversary of the revolt that toppled an overstaying regime, media and civil society groups have banded together for a new call for People Power: A call to junk the Cyber Libel provision of Republic Act 10175.
For this, media, netizens, and civil society leaders are launching an online and offline campaign to junk the Cyber Libel provision of R.A. 10175 and decriminalize libel.
Members and supporters of these groups are encouraged to post anti-cyber libel memes on Facebook and Twitter, and press their local legislators to act on calls to amend the libel provisions contained in the Revised Penal Code.
The recent Supreme Court decision affirming online or cyber libel had raised an outcry from advocates of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. At a time when the same groups are having difficulty convincing government to pass a freedom of information law, R.A. 10175 moves these freedoms backward by expanding the coverage of libel to the digital domain and increasing the penalties for the crime.
For these groups, the decision is a regression of the gains made in EDSA 1986, when press freedom was restored. Now, more than ever, everyone, not just journalists, are in danger of being slapped with the charge of libel, a crime that now carries a six-year prison term if committed online.
The greatest irony of all: While freedom of expression and freedom of the press advocates have been campaigning to decriminalize libel, government has in fact expanded the scope of the crime and increased the penalty. This, even as the government continues to delay passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which has been waffling in the legislature for a decade and a half.
The Philippines, touted as having the freest press in Asia, still subscribes to an archaic and restrictive libel law. Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code considers libel a criminal offense punishable with a prison term, and presumes that the allegedly offensive material is malicious until proven otherwise.