Senate OKs bill protecting TV, online, radio journalists

Camille Elemia

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Senate OKs bill protecting TV, online, radio journalists
The bill seeks to amend the 70-year old Republic Act 53, also known as the Shield Law, which only protects print journalists from revealing their sources

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to include legitimate online and broadcast journalists in the list of media practitioners who cannot be forced to reveal their news sources.

Voting 18-0, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1255 on Monday, May 15. Senator Grace Poe is the sponsor of the measure. Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III is the principal author while Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is a co-author.

Poe said the bill sought to amend the 70-year old Republic Act 53, better known as the Shield Law or the Sotto Law following the proposal of the late Senator Vicente Yap Sotto.

RA 53 is limited to print journalists, as it exempts the publisher, editor, columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation from divulging their sources unless it endangered the security of the State.

Poe said the approved bill, if passed into law, would also protect broadcast and online journalists, as well as foreign and local wire news services from revealing their sources.

“Under our proposed measure, we shall expand the coverage of RA 53, as amended, to any publisher, owner or duly recognized or accredited journalist, writer, reporter, contributor, opinion writer, editor, manager, producer, news director, web master, cartoonist or media practitioner involved in the writing, editing, production and dissemination of news for mass circulation, of any print, broadcasts, wire service organization, or electronic mass media, including but not limited to the internet and cable TV and its variants,” Poe said in a statement.

“We now receive news not just through print media but also through broadcast media such as television, radio and the internet,” she added.

Citing a 2012 survey conducted by the TNS Global Market Research, Poe said 45% of 1,000 respondents have internet access while 36.5% listen to the radio. Another 12 percent said they read the newspapers while 4 percent said they read magazines.

But the Shield Law and the proposed measure, Poe pointed out, could not be used to protect a person from libel.

While journalists would be protected from compulsion to reveal sources, they are not protected “from spewing out malicious imputations under the guise of journalism.”

A similar measure is pending for 2nd reading approval in the House of Representatives. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.