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House okays bill on press freedom

The House of Representatives on second reading Wednesday night approved a measure extending the protection provided under Republic Act 53, or the “Sotto Law,” to journalists from broadcast, news agencies and internet publications.

The House, in plenary session, approved House Bill 684 which aims to uphold the freedom of speech and expression by expanding the coverage of the protection of the law on the right of media practitioners to refuse to reveal the source of any news item, report or information.

Authored  by Reps. Raul de Mar of Cebu and Harlin Neil Abayon III of AANGAT TAYO party-list, the bill “extends the protection to the publisher, station owner and/or manager, bureau chief, editor, news editor, writer or reporter, correspondent, opinion columnist or commentator, cartoonist, photographer, or any practitioner involved in the gathering, writing, editing of and commenting on the news.”

The approved bill also “requires that the protection shall only be accorded to a legitimate practitioner of an accredited media organization or entity.”

Del Mar proposed to amend the law as “electronic journalism was virtually nonexistent—where broadcast stations played music or drama and gave the news but did not hire news reporters; the news or wire agencies still had to be developed and recognized, and the internet was not even a dream.”

“It is an omission that must be filled, an anomaly that must be corrected.  The journalists envisioned by the Sotto Law cannot be confined to print practitioners,” del Mar said in his explanatory note.

RA 53 was authored by the late senator Vicente Sotto, grandfather of Sen. Vicente Sotto III, and was enacted in 1946 when print was the only medium of information.

The law exempts the publisher, editor or reporter of any publication from revealing the source of any information relayed to them in confidence “unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.”

Topics: House of Representatives , Republic Act 53 , “Sotto Law” , Freedom of speech and expression
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