Cebu media push FOI bill, questions cybercrime law

Posted on September 21, 2012

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Dr. Pureza Onate and lawyer Pacheco Seares discuss the Cebu Citizens Press Council’€™s resolution in response to the cybercrime bill in a meeting held at Marco Polo.(CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

On the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Marial Law, the community press in Cebu pushed for more access to information and warned that the new law on cybercrime had suspicious provisions to stifle press freedom.

The Cebu Citizen’s-Press Council (CCPC) passed a resolution urgently calling for Congress to pass the Freedom of Information Act.

The resolution, passed during the council’s 3rd quarterly meeting at the Marco Polo Plaza, urged leaders and members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to enact the FOI bill before the end of the 15th Congress.

And if Congress fails to do so, the council said national legislators should explain to the public why they refuse to pass the bill which “serves the public’s right to know.”

The 15-member council gathers top editors of Cebu’s 5 newspapers, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, and private sector representatives of business, the academe, law and the church to take positions on media issues.

The CCPC‘s 3rd quarterly meeting was presided by the president Dr. Pureza Oñate with the executive director Pachico Seares of Sun.Star Cebu.

Guest speaker Ramon Isberto of PLDT and Smart Comunications tackled the impact of the digital economy.

CYBERCRIME LAW

Sun.Star Exchange Network editor in chief Nini Cabaero briefed the council on repercussions of the new Cybercrime Prevention Law.

“One can sue journalists based on online publications. The mere filing of a libel case has a chilling effect on journalists,” Cabaero said.

Under RA 10175, libel is “the unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

The penalty for violators of online libel is one degree higher or more severe than that for conventional libel.

The penalty is imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years or a fine of at least P200,000.

A “take down” provision also empowers the Department of Justice to block access to computer data and could be used to shut down an entire website, which Cabaero said was the equivalent of padlocking a printing press in violation of freedom of expresssion. /BenCyrus G. Ellorin and Ador Vincent Mayol

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