‘Pro-media’ bills in Congress attack press freedom – CMFR

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility urges Congress to pass the Malacañang version of the FOI bill, and at the same time criticizes several Right of Reply bills in Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Enhancing freedom, yet attacking it at the same time.

This how the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) characterized several bills pending in Congress related to press freedom, including the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the Philippine media watchdog urged Congress to pass the Malacañang version of the FOI bill, saying that “while not perfect,” the version is “generally acceptable” to the media and civil society groups, and at the same time criticized several Right of Reply bills in Congress.

“The length of time it has taken for the country to reach this point has become an embarrassment in the world community of democracies, the Philippines being among the worst laggards in the passage of an FOI law,” the statement read.

On the other hand, CMFR reiterated its opposition to any kind of right of reply bill, or any provision in any bill that has the same effect.

“The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of media and media advocacy organizations founded to address the killing of journalists and to defend journalists under threat, has repeatedly made known its objections to any right of reply (ROR) law, or, for that matter, any ROR provision concealed in any other law,” it said.

Any ROR law will “undermine the editorial prerogative” to decide what to publish or broadcast, and will also open the floodgates for people who would claim they have been denied that ‘right,’ the CMFR and FFFJ said.

The right of reply, the group argued, “is inherent in the ethical imperative of fairness, which mandates the presentation of all sides in a controversy.”

The group also said Philippine media is already practicing self-regulation, and the “coercive power of the law” is not needed.

“The abuse of any right is a risk in a democracy, the alternative absence of all risk being the denial of that right,” the statement added.

The CMFR and FFFj are currently having a signature drive to press Congress to act. The petition can be found at the CMFR site.

May 3 was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the United Nations in December 1993 to celebrate the principles of press freedom, and to focus on issues about media and journalism.

This year, the main UN-led celebrations will be held in Tunisia, one of the first countries to be involved in the 2011 Arab Spring. – Rappler.com