Black Tuesday protests set vs online libel

By Janvic Mateo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 22 2014 02:23 AM | Updated as of Feb 22 2014 10:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Different media organizations on Friday called on the public to join the Black Tuesday online and offline protests on Feb. 25 in time with the commemoration of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Rowena Paraan, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said in a roundtable discussion with stakeholders yesterday that they plan to organize various activities to oppose the recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to uphold the online libel provision in the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act.

“This is not just an issue for journalists, this will also affect the ordinary citizens,” Paraan said, noting the significance of holding the activities in time with the commemoration of the EDSA Revolution.

Paraan said different media groups, including the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), have agreed to come up with a pooled editorial about online libel and the higher penalty that was upheld as constitutional by the high court.

“We also decided to bring back the ‘Black Tuesday’ campaign that we did before,” Paraan said.

She added different actions would be held both on the cyberspace and in real time.

During the forum, PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas stressed the need for the public to understand the issue, as they will also be greatly affected by the online libel provision in the law.

She added the passage of the Cybercrime Law, particularly the online libel provision, contradicts the supposed transparency campaign of the government, particularly with the recent launch of the open data website.

The media groups are among the 15 petitioners that questioned the constitutionality of Republic Act 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, before the SC.

The Philippine Press Institute (PPI) yesterday supported the appeals to the high court to review its decision upholding the libel provisions in the Cybercrime Law.

PPI chairman Jesus Dureza said the organization would also ask lawmakers to amend the law to remove the provisions on online libel.

“It is not only in the Supreme Court where we can seek relief from the unconscionable provisions and Jurassic penal sanctions of this new law. We can also go to Congress,” he said.

Dureza urged the public to support the move in Congress to decriminalize libel and remove the penal sanctions in all statute books “that impinge on our inalienable freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares and Akbayan party-list Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez in separate statements said they will push for the repeal of the online libel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 even if it was upheld by the SC. – With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Teddy Molina