Media groups: Cybercrime law repressive

Posted on September 19, 2012

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Several lawyers in Cebu Cebu welcomed the approval of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 but it has stirred protest in some media quarters.

Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Meinrado Paredes said the law may help curb online anomalies.

“The use of the Internet has been abused,” he said.

Lawyer Earl Bonachita, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City chapter, said the approval last Sept. 15, “is a good development. It would help lessen cybercrimes.”

Some media organizations in the country however are sounding alarm bells, saying the law reduces democratic space.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) are one in saying that the law sets back the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency.

Both organizations scored the new law for incorporating the provision on libel in the Revised Penal Code to cover online publications.

“The Cybercrime Prevention Act actually broadens the scope of a libel law so antiquated and draconian that the United Nations Human Rights Council itself declared it excessive and called on the Philippine government to review the law with the end of decriminalizing libel,” the NUJP said.

The CMFR lamented that approval of the law “ignored the demand from journalists and human rights groups for the decriminalization of libel.”

The law will be used to intimidate not just journalists, but other communicators like bloggers or anyone who wishes to express his or her opinion through online social media like Facebook and Twitter.

According to the CMFR, the passage of the law may again signal the open season for harassment libel suits. “Libel as a criminal offense has been used by past administrations as well as local officials today to harass and intimidate journalists,” it said.

They are saying that if the government is true to its promise of accountability and good governance, Congress should have passed the Freedom of Information Act which has been languishing for years in Congress.

Showing defiance however, the NUJP said:

“But, as we have said, also time and again, with no fear of being proven wrong, that the reason the Philippine press remains free is because Filipino journalists insist it remain so.

“We are certain bloggers, netizens and all those who value freedom of expression share these sentiments, whatever the Cybercrime Prevention Act says.”

RA 10175 punishes content-related offenses, such as cybersex, child pornography, libel, and “unsolicited commercial communication,” defined as the transmission of commercial electronic communication via a computer to advertise or sell products or services.

RA 10175 also penalizes offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability computer data and systems, such as illegal access, illegal interference, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices, and cyber-squatting.

It defines cyber-squatting as the acquisition of a domain name in the Internet in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy a reputation, or deprive others of the right to register the same domain name.

Also covered by the law are computer-related forgery and fraud. /BenCyrus G. Ellorin and Ador Vincent Mayol

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