New law lets online, broadcast journalists protect their sources

MANILA, Philippines – With President Rodrigo Duterte's go signal, online and broadcast journalists will now enjoy the protection of the Sotto or shield law, which lets them protect their confidential sources.

Republic Act (RA) No. 11458, an amendment to RA No. 53 or the Sotto law, was signed by Duterte on August 30, according to a copy of the measure made public by Malacañang on Wednesday, September 25.

Before the amendment, the 73-year-old Sotto law only covered publishers, editors, columnists, or reporters of print media, like newspapers and magazines.

With the change, even media practitioners from television, radio, online, and wire service news organizations cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news item.

The only exception, reads the law, is if a court or committee of the Senate or House of Representatives deems that the information of the confidential source is necessary for national security.

The complete expanded Section 1 of the Sotto law now reads:

"Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws, any publisher, owner, or duly recognized or accredited journalist, writer, reporter, contributor, opinion writer, editor, columnist, manager, media practitioner involved in the writing, editing, production, and dissemination of news for mass circulation, of any print, broadcast, wire service organization, or electronic mass media, including cable TV and its variants, cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news items, report or information appearing or being reported or disseminated through said media, which was related in confidence to the abovementioned media practioners unless the court or the House of Representatives or the Senate or any committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State."

In the Senate, the counterpart measure expanding the Sotto law, Senate Bill No. 1255, was authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and then-senator Antonio Trillanes IV. Sotto's late grandfather, former senator Vicente Sotto, had authored the original law in 1946.

The House version of the bill, House Bill. No 684, was principally authored by Cebu 1st District Representative Raul del Mar.

President Duterte greenlights amendment to law on journalists’ sources. Amendment now includes media practitioners from broadcast, online, wire news, cable TV news organizations as among those who can’t be compelled to reveal sources unless necessary for national security. — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) September 25, 2019 



Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at