Press Release
March 15, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today called on media practitioners opposed to the right to reply bill to reassess their position on this legislation since this will ultimately benefit them and enhance the journalistic profession.

Pimentel branded as entirely baseless the criticism that the proposal curtails press freedom or constitutes prior restraint or censorship to the right of journalists on what to write and report.

"The proposed legislation expands the right of free speech, press and expression, but this right is not limited to the right of journalists alone," he said.

The senator from Mindanao said the press is free to criticize anyone, and is in fact even encouraged to expose and denounce wrongdoing in government and society. But he said that when a journalist hurls a criticism, he should be open to response from the person criticized.

"If the press accuses or criticizes any person in a public manner through their medium (print or broadcast), the latter should have the right to defend himself and to state his position on the accusation or criticism also in a public manner," Pimentel said.

He said that since this legislation guarantees the publication or airing of the side of a person who feel aggrieved over a defamatory, inaccurate and malicious story, the journalist concerned will be spared from the threat of being sued in court for libel.

"It would lessen court legislation and save money and time all around," Pimentel said.

"Perhaps, it would compel our media practitioners to be a little more responsible in the exercise of their profession and thus, more reliable as sources of information."

The bill, as approved by the Senate, imposes fine but not a prison term on journalists who does not observe the requirements of the law. However, Pimentel stressed that this is not meant to be a penal statute.

He said bill imposes only graduated fines and debarment of persons concerned from media outlet for repeated violations of the law. The amount of fine should not exceed P10,000 for the first offense, P20,000 for the second offense and P30,000 for the third offense.

The veteran parliamentarian said that responsible media practitioners who are practicing the right to reply have no reason to fear about the proposal because the target of the bill is not them but those who flagrantly disregard and deny the right of the public to exercise such right.

"I do not think that any individual or group should have a monopoly of what is right or wrong. That is a concept that is abhorrent in a democratic setting where there is a balancing of interest. There is no absolute right in a democracy. There is always a limitation even to the most sacred of rights," he said.

"If we are not a democracy, individuals or groups will accumulate all the rights. And they do not bother if there are those who disagree with them. The right of the press to criticize is recognized but so is the right of t he public to respond."

Pimentel stressed that the ideal situation is for members of the media to practice self-discipline and self-regulation which the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and Philippine Press Council are trying to do.

But until the newspapermen and broadcasters are able to police themselves, he said the right of reply legislation should be enforced. The proposed law has a sunset clause which prescribes that it will automatically lapse after a period of five years.

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