Thursday, February 26, 2009

Campaign against bill making right of reply obligatory

MANILA, Philippines - Reporters Without Borders supports Philippine journalists who are campaigning against a bill that would force news media to publish or broadcast the response of anyone claiming to have been unfairly criticized in that media.

The press freedom organization believes the right of reply should be respected but not imposed by force, and urges parliamentarians to throw out the bill.

The House of Representatives is due to vote soon on the Right of Reply Bill (RORB), which would impose heavy fines and censorship on news media that fail to comply, or even jail terms on the staff responsible.

The bill was described as an “act of terrorism against the media” by journalists’ organizations when they gathered yesterday to press their demand for its withdrawal.

The bill says anyone “accused of a crime or criticized for any lapse in behavior” shall be given the right to reply in the media that printed or broadcast the accusation.

A lawyer said the bill would violate a constitutional ban on laws that restrict free speech, freedom of expression and press freedom. As the country’s press councils already allow people to claim the right of reply, the proposed law is seen as way to pressure the media.

Editors and media executives fear candidates in next year’s elections will use it to harass journalists.

More than 130 journalists and media executives have already signed a petition against the bill.

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