Right of Reply forum

Former UP CMC dean Luis Teodoro and Atty. Harry Roque

CenterLaw, the Open Society and the UP Journalism Club held a forum on the Right of Reply Bill Tuesday morning at the UP College of Mass Communication. Short notes on the forum, to add to the ongoing discussion about the Right of Reply Bill.

**these are NOT QUOTES, but notes taken during the speeches given. These are my summaries of the speeches. This is not a transcript.

Atty. Romel Bagares:
The bill will benefit mainly politicians and public figures, because these are often the subject of news reports, not private individuals.
What sort of harm does the bill seek to prevent? Harm to reputation. But jurisprudence denies that protection to public officials. (***the right of reply bill gives public figures protection from criticism). Also, the proposed law is content specific — it regulates content, which is actually censorship. The unintended consequences of the bill goes far beyond its intended effects.

Former UP Dean Luis Teodoro:
The bill will turn editors into hatchet men of politicians and other various interests, who will now be demanding for space and time based on the stories written about them. What is necessary is for a militant public to demand that media conform to standards and that media respond. There are mechanisms within media to tackle the problems of corruption and other issues. The proposed bill will not address the problems of media; it will only affect the efforts of this country to achieve some kind of democracy.

Alwyn Alburo, NUJP:
It is not true that media did not oppose the bill at first. Records will show that although only three media organizations were invited in the Senate hearing, all of them voiced opposition to the bill. The NUJP has launched a right of reply watch in congress to monitor the votes of congressmen. The NUJP also has an ongoing campaign against the bill. You can sign up online.

Caloy Conde, New York Times:
The politicians are exploiting the sins of the press for their own benefits. If you’re a politician and you can control the local media, mananalo ka. Maybe Pimentel is just trying to level the playing field. There is a need for media to respond to public criticism — but this proposed law is not the answer. This will only foster journalism that is subject to the whimsies of the law. One of the assumptions of this bill is that the media is hopeless and need to be disciplined. But there are mechanisms to reform the media, such as the media ombudsman, and that has not yet been exhausted.

Atty. Harry Roque:
Press freedom is not just the freedom to write or report but also the freedom to choose what to publish. The infringement is not only in the censorship but also in compelling the reply. The bill exacts a penalty on newspapers, on the basis of their content. A recent court decision in Germany held that the Right of Reply is unconstitutional. Although there is a Right of Reply in 40 countries worldwide, that does not mean we have to follow suit.


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