Senate Majority Leader and Independent senator Kiko Pangilinan is willing to spearhead the move to amend the existing libel law following Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s suggestion that judges should prefer imposing a fine rather than imprisonment on erring journalists. “Having been a former mediaman myself, I understand the plight of practitioners. Libel suits are oftentimes used to harass and intimidate the media. In effect, there is an indirect but apparent method of curtailing press freedom through unwarranted libel suits,” Kiko said.
Chief Justice Puno earlier issued a memorandum circular to judges urging them to mete out fine as penalty for media people found guilty of libel, instead of jail time.”The existing libel law has been in the statute books for almost 80 years, and remains essentially unchanged. The current libel law is a vestige of our colonial past. We should amend the said law to be compatible with constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech, of expression, and of the press,” Kiko furthers. Kiko however clarifies that this does not mean that the press should be without limitations.”The rights to free speech and of the press are attended with an obligation on the part of the journalists to report accurately, fairly and with factual basis,” The media on the other hand must strengthen their mechanisms for self regulation so that parties who feel aggrieved due to abuses or irresponsible and unprofessional conduct by the media can have speedy redress’ Kiko ended.
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