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May 23rd
Home Sections Literature and Fourth Estate Right of Reply Widens Freedom of Speech
Right of Reply Widens Freedom of Speech PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Literature and Fourth Estate
Tuesday, 06 May 2008 10:18

The right of reply will widen the freedom of the speech or expression so that it will be enjoyed not only by members of the media but also by the public at large.

This was stressed by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) during the floor deliberations on Senate Bill 2150 granting persons who are unfairly criticized or inaccurately portrayed by the media the right to reply or present their side of the story.

“It is our humble view that the right of reply is not an infringement at all on the freedom of the press. On the contrary, it is an expansion of that right so that the people in general will enjoy the right of free speech which should be respected by the media,” said Senator Pimentel who authored the measure.

 

The bill provides that print and broadcast media should allocate more or less equal space and air time for the defense or position of the complaining person.He stressed that the freedoms of the press and of speech that are enshrined in the Constitution are not absolute since members of the media “must be responsible for what they write or what they allege in their opinions.”

Citing his own experience as a government official, Mr. Pimentel observed that stories in the media about the statements or positions that public figures make on national issues often do not reflect accurately what they really said.

“And if we bother to reply, quite often, either our replies are not printed or published as we want them to be so that the people will get a fuller view of what is really at issue, or if they are published at all, may be if the criticisms of our position appeared on page one, the reply will appear on page 35 of the 36-page newspaper,” he said.

He said the right to reply will deter persons who were the objects of the unflattering or defamatory stories or commentaries from resorting to violence to get back at the reporters, columnists or broadcasters concerned.

 

“Probably, by giving the persons being criticized a chance to reply and get their reply published, according to the strictures of this bill, then hopefully we can reduce the number of resort-to-the-gun as a way to even up things with media practitioners by those whom media have criticized,” Mr. Pimentel said.

 

Senator Pimentel says the proposed law will help put an end to the summary executions of journalists.He said the proposed law will help put an end to the summary executions of journalists. He deplored the very high incidence of media killings in the Philippines for which it has earned the unsavory tag “most dangerous country” for journalists after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Pimentel acknowledged the fact that there are some publishers, owners and editors of newspapers and broadcast networks who are not fully convinced about the wisdom of enacting a right-to-reply law since they see it as an undue imposition or encroachment on press freedom. But he stressed that the bill will benefit them in the long run in terms of preventing people who are unduly defamed or maligned by the press from suing the “erring” parties for libel.

As stated in the bill, the newspapers, radio or television stations concerned will be required at the earliest possible time to print or air the reply of the person who feels aggrieved by the insulting or damaging story or commentary.

The bill provides that print and broadcast media should allocate more or less equal space and air time for the defense or position of the complaining person. Preferably, the reply should be published in the same newspaper page or space where the offending item was printed.

Refusal of the media practitioners concerned will make them liable to sanctions or penalties in the form of fine or imprisonment for not more than 30 days for the third offense, at the discretion of the court.

Senator Pimentel said the right-to-reply bill is a companion measure to the bill decriminalizing libel which has long been pending in both chambers for Congress.

By decriminalizing libel, he said the right of the person concerned will be limited to securing redress by way of a civil libel where the court may order the imposition of fine if the respondent journalist is found guilty of the charge. No prison term will be imposed for libel. # # #



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Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 May 2008 10:43
 

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