Friday, February 27, 2009

Moro Youth, Campus Journalist Leagues Slam Statutory Right of Reply Bill

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 27, 2009) - Moro youth and student writer groups in Cotabato City in Mindanao have strongly criticized Friday the passage of Right of Reply bill in Congress.

The Liga ng Kabataang Moro and College Editors Guild of the Philippines- Cotabato City chapter made their standpoint after the Senate, by a vote of 21-0, approved the passage of the bill.

The CEGP chapter here expressed their disappointment – believing the said bill would only devastate the essence of freedom of expression in any form - articles or interviews, speech or debate in TV or radio programs.

The Right of Reply Bill would mandate media companies to provide equal space or airtime to anyone who is subject of their critical reports to reply or react as form of the latter’s freedom of expression, thus, the right to reply; be it in television, radio or publications.

The guild believes the bill, which requires or mandates publications like magazines, tabloids, broadsheets and news letter to publish replies in the same space; either front page or inside story, encroaches on the right of the editorial board to determine the content of publications according to the relevance of the issues.

"This will hamper both campus press and the mainstream media in determining what to air or publish. The bill would restrict the media from tackling sensitive issues and prevents the publication of valid criticisms against public figures, organization, company, etc. Even commercialized media would keep away from sensitive subjects knowing they will be obliged later on to provide equal space or air-time to the reply of the respondent. This will completely annihilate freedom of expression, it’s ultra-democracy", Michelle Tirol, CEGP chapter’s spokesperson, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

According to Liga ng Kabataang Moro (LKM) spokesperson Marbawi Edza, the bill will deflate the right of editors and publishers to determine the content of the publications. The group is also apprehensive about its negative implications to the web postings, writings and publications of political views and standpoints and statements of Moro people.

"We respect and advocate freedom of expression in all levels and so the right to reply but the statutory right to reply is another thing. We and the campus press stand with the journalists and publishers in appealing to Congress for the withdrawal of the said bill." Edza concluded.

Various media groups have also opposed the mandatory, legislated, compulsory, court-enforceable Right of Reply on the ground that prior compulsion violates a publication's editorial independence and is thus unconstitutional. Instead it supports a Voluntary Right of Reply through Press Council.

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