Leaders of various media outfits and organizations today urged House Speaker Prospero Nograles to abandon the passage of the Right of Reply Bill in a dialogue initiated by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines at past twelve in the afternoon today.
Representatives from the NUJP, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippine Press Institute, ABS-CBN, Pinoy Weekly, ABC 5 and College Editors Guild of the Philippines reiterated to Nograles that the bill violates Article 4, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution which states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press.”
NUJP Secretary General Sonny Fernandez stressed that in spite of the proposed amendments, the bill, if passed, will become a law that will intrude into, and precede, the supposed independent editorial judgment of editors and producers.
ABS-CBN Senior Vice President for News and Current Affairs Maria Ressa, added that as such, the bill can be interpreted to mean as prior restraint.
Fernandez said that as a matter of fact, there are over 700 journalists and 45 media outfits and institutions nation-wide who signed the unified statement against the Right of Reply Bill which was turned over to Nograles.
But Nograles said that as the Speaker, he cannot decide on the fate of the bill. He said there are two groups who support and reject the bill, saying “Kaya kung ako, hayaan na nating i-akyat yan,” or allow the bill to take its due course in the House through nominal voting. He said each representative will be given five minutes to explain why he/she is voting for or against the passage of RORB.
Nograles asked media leaders for a win-win solution to the issue.
Philippine Press Institute Executive Director Jose Pavia, however, said the win-win solution should always be the people’s right to information. If the bill is passed, Pavia said it will be the people who will suffer because they will read more replies or rejoinders than significant news and information of the day.
This is the second time that media and house leaders debated on the issue. Last March 3, passions ran high in the exchanges that transpired between Congress leaders and media stakeholders. It was during these discussions that the bills’ authors offered amendments to RORB that was flatly rejected by media representatives.
The dialogue with Nograles today is part of the nationally-coordinated activity of NUJP to dramatize opposition to the controversial bill.
Earlier, media men and campus writers picketed in front of the Batasan South Gate, wearing black shirts, arm and head bands with a slogan that says “No to Reply bill.”
In Bacolod, journalists wore protest shirts in red and black and talked to media while Zamboanga journalists issued a statement calling Congress to scrap the bill. In Pampanga, media men also wore black shirts and displayed streamers opposing RORB in congressional district offices.
At four this afternoon, NUJP-Kidapawan Chapter through chairperson Malu Manar conducted a live-on-air forum on RORB with journalist-leaders. Fernandez guested via phone-patch, shared the results in the dialogue with Nograles and answered questions from local media.
Fernandez said they are planning moves to sustain the initiatives against the Right of Reply Bill which has stirred strong opposition from Philippine media.
The Right of Reply Bill mandates tv, radio, print, online and SMS media to broadcast, publish and upload replies of aggrieved persons in same prominence in news reports. It imposes fines and imprisonments on violators of up to P200, 000 and up to 30 days in jail and/or 30 days suspension of franchise.
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