Right of Reply bill violates press freedom, lawmakers say

Backing up the NUJP on the forum held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. today were the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Cotabato chapter and the Mindanao Press Corps. 

Two congressmen — Rep. Bernardo Piñol of North Cotabato’s 2nd District, and Teofisto Guingona III of Misamis Oriental — expressed their opposition to the bill.

The right to reply bill requires media practitioners to provide newspaper space or airtime to the response of persons who feel aggrieved by biased or inaccurate stories or commentaries. Furthermore, it enjoins the media organization concerned to publish or broadcast the reply as soon as possible and to give it equal treatment as the original report.

Guingona, in a phone-patch interview, said the bill, if enacted, could lead to a dreadful situation where media is dictated on what to say or write. “That in itself violates press freedom,” he stressed.

Piñol, on the other hand, said there are existing laws that could be used against erring media persons. “We have a law on libel and slander. If we feel slighted by media’s comments, then we can use this law,” he said. 

Lawyer Greg Andolana, owner and general manager of DXCA FM Charm Radio, pointed out that the bill violates a constitutional proviso that says “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of the press.” 

At the end of the forum, journalists in the province affixed their signatures in a joint manifesto to formally declare their opposition to the bill.

The carrier station of the on-air forum was DXND of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp., and broadcast simultaneously in other stations, among them Charm Radio and Radyo Natin in Kidapawan City , and DXGM 'Hot' FM in M’lang, North Cotabato.

Malu Cadelina Manar, NUJP Kidapawan chapter chair, and NUJP member Jimmy Sta. Cruz led the discussions. (MindaNews)