Lawmaker: Right of Reply bill to affect bloggers, texters

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 31 2009 05:26 PM | Updated as of Jun 01 2009 08:09 AM

The Right of Reply bill will affect not only journalists, but also bloggers, texters, and users of social networking sites and other electronic devices, a lawmaker said Sunday.

“Ang reality po ang website ay any site na binibisita natin sa Internet including our email, our Facebook, our Friendster, the personal blogs na binibisita natin,” said Kabataan Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino during the Kapihan sa Cypress forum Sunday.

Palatino said Manila 6th district Rep. Bienvenido Abante, sponsor of House Bill 3306 or the Right of Reply Bill, admitted that the bill would also cover Web sites, emails, Internet social networking sites and other electronic devices in its scope

“Ito'y tinanong ko sa sponsor at sinabi niya: ‘Yes included even ang personal blogs sa right of reply bill’”, said the young legislator.

Palatino said it would not only affect press freedom but also could lead to Internet censorship and affect freedom of speech and expression of bloggers, texters, and even iPod user.

“Ang implication po nito ay even ang mga non-journalists ma-co-compel na maglaan ng space sa kanilang Web sites, sa kanilang personal sites para mag-publish ng kanilang rely ng mga taong gagamitin itong right of rely bill,” said Palatino.

“Ang electronic device, ang example na binigay ng ating sponsor ay ang cell phone... Ibig sabihin ang texting mismo ay sakop ng right of reply bill,” said Palatino.

'All internet users affected'

The bill's Section 1 states that: “All persons natural or judicial who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed, or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to charges or criticisms published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites or through any electronic device."

"The bill, therefore, would not only affect media outfits and journalists but also all website owners, website masters, email account holders and other netizens who are not necessarily media practitioners," Palatino said further in statement released Sunday.

"This would affect the more than five million bloggers and millions more of Internet users in the country. My fear is that when this bill comes to law, it will be used to regulate the content of the Internet," he said.

"When we are checking our emails, when we open our Friendster or Facebook accounts, we are checking our websites. Does this mean that we will be compelled to moderate, modify or edit our personal websites? Is this not Internet censorship and suppression of freedom of speech and expression?" he added.

"Does this mean that whenever a criticism is published in these venues a person can use the Right of Reply to compel a blogger or moderator of a social networking site to publish a space or a reply for that person? Or when an individual decides to copy or re-post an article from a news website in his or her personal blog, and in the future the said article becomes a subject of this Right of Reply, will he or she be sanctioned or fined also?" Palatino added.

'Incredible and idiotic'

Palatino also questioned the inclusion of 'any electronic device' in the bill.

"Again, this would affect more than 60 million mobile phone users and iPod owners in the country. This is totally out of bounds and not to mention virtually impossible to apply. Kung may ka-text ako at nagreklamo siya sa text ko , will I be compelled to publish his reply in my mobile phone? I simply find it incredible and idiotic," he said.

Same principle applies, Palatino said, to iPod users and other owners of electronic devices.

Palatino said that he would oppose the bill on grounds that it subdues freedom of the press and the general public's freedom of speech and expression. He also said that he is not amenable even to a 'watered down' version of the bill because it merely 'renders the Right of Reply pointless.'

He also encouraged bloggers, netizens, texters and concerned youth to register their opposition to the 'apparent railroading of the bill in Congress.'