Press Release
October 8, 2008

Right to reply not meant to curtail press freedom -- Pimentel

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said some media practitioners are raising unfounded fears by opposing the right to reply on the ground that it will allegedly curtail press freedom.

Pimentel said the bill on the right to reply, already approved on third and final reading by the Senate, aims to instill a greater sense of responsibility among journalists while enhancing the freedom of expression of the people.

"The right to reply should be looked upon not as an infringement on the freedom of speech and expression now being enjoyed by the media. It is an expansion of the right of the people to express the other side of a controversy in which they are unduly maligned," he said.

The bill requires media practitioners to provide newspaper space or airtime to the response or explanation of persons who feel aggrieved by stories or commentaries which may be biased, inaccurate and unfair to them. It enjoins the newspaper, radio or television station concerned to publish or broadcast the reply of the complaining party or parties as soon as possible and with more or less equal treatment as the report under question.

Pimentel said the bill was crafted in response to the frequent complaint of people who are the subjects of defamatory media articles over the refusal or failure of newspapers or broadcast networks to present their side. He observed a common gripe that if the explanation of the complaining party sees print, it is too late and it is buried in an obscure, inside page of the newspaper.

Because of this unsound practice, he said the aggrieved individuals - if they have the money - are forced to buy newspaper space just so their side of the issue is presented accurately and completely.

He lamented that critics of the right to reply bill have misunderstood the intent of the measure instead of appreciating its positive points which will ultimately benefit the media in terms of boosting their credibility and objectivity.

"It has never crept into my mind to propose a law that would in effect curtail the freedom of our people. And at the same time, we should recognize that the freedom of expression in this country is not absolute," the minority leader said.

Pimentel said the freedom of the press has its limits in the sense that the right of media practitioners "to offend me should elicit a corresponding obligation on your part to allow me to reply."

He stressed that the right to reply does not intend to enable anybody to dictate on the media or to make frivolous imposition that may intrude on their prerogative to decide on what to print or broadcast.

"For instance, if subject A is hit by a banner headline, we are not insisting that the next day's banner headline should contain the reply of the person who has been maligned by a newspaper story. We are only saying that perhaps if a person is unduly hit on the frontpage of the newspaper, his reply should also find space on the frontpage of the next issue of the newspaper," he explained.

Pimentel expressed dismay that some journalists refuse to accept the fact that there are irresponsible members in their ranks who have a penchant for attacking people who are the objects of their ire without bothering to give them an opportunity to answer defend themselves.

He said that generally media practitioners are responsible enough by seeing to it that both sides of a controversy are presented in the spirit of fairplay and balanced reporting. He said they have nothing to fear if the right to reply measure is enacted into law.

Pimentel bewailed that when the Senate committee on public information and mass media, chaired by Sen. Ramon Revilla, Jr. was conducting its hearings on the bill, representatives of various media organizations were invited. Unfortunately, most of them snubbed the committee's invitation.

"And now that the bill is about to be passed by both houses of Congress, that is the time they are alarmed by this bill."

News Latest News Feed