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To defend press freedom, Hontiveros seeks decriminalization of libel

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
To defend press freedom, Hontiveros seeks decriminalization of libel
Supporters and employees of ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast network, hold placards as they join a protest in front of the ABS-CBN building in Manila on Feb. 21, 2020.
AFP / Basilio Sepe

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a bill seeking the decriminalization of libel as she argued that the country’s libel laws have been used and abused to clamp down on the freedom of the press.

Senate Bill No. 1593, which Hontiveros filed last week, seeks to repeal portions of the Revised Penal Code on libel and the provision on cyber libel in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

“Our libel laws have been weaponized to stifle very basic fundamental rights. These laws have been used to constantly attack many of our freedoms, but particularly the freedom of the press. We need to decriminalize libel if we are to truly defend press freedom,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

While Hontiveros’ proposal seeks to remove the criminal aspect of libel, it still allows people to institute actions for damages.

The opposition senator said cyber libel has been weaponized to silence journalists, whom she said were only doing their jobs.

“If we don’t correct this, libel will continue to be used to kill our freedom,” she said.

Hontiveros announced that she filed the bill on the day that Baguio-based journalist and Rappler contributor Frank Cimatu was convicted of cyber libel by a Quezon City court over a 2017 Facebook post.

In 2012, the United Nations Committee on Human Rights declared that the continued criminalization of libel in the Philippines violated the country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Journalists in the country have long called to decriminalize libel, along with the graver cyber libel offense stipulated in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

vuukle comment

CYBER LIBEL

LIBEL

PRESS FREEDOM

RISA HONTIVEROS

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