Media groups on Tuesday said they were worried that an anti-fake news measure would stifle freedom of expression and valid political views.
They offered this view during a Senate hearing on Senate Bill 1296, filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, that seeks to criminalize the spread of disinformation online.
Jonathan de Santos, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said although fake news is a problem, “it might be better addressed with better media and information literacy.”
“We could also look at Senator [Raffy] Tulfo’s point in reaching platforms to take down ‘yung disinformation and fake news, and also free WiFi and internet access,” he added.
De Santos said the possibility of jail time was a danger to free speech and freedom of expression.
The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas also expressed concern over the definitions used in the bill.
“It should not be too broad to include prohibition of valid political opinions,” said KBP general counsel and spokesman Rudolph Jularbal.
Jularbal said the KBP was concerned that the way the law was crafted might impede free speech and expression.
Senator Robinhood Padilla, on the other hand, said malicious disinformation should not go unpunished as it violates the rights of others.
Padilla, who chairs the Senate committee on public information and mass media, said the constitutional right to freedom of expression should never be abused.
“When we add malice in an attempt to destroy another person’s reputation, that is not right. That is violating the rights of a fellow person. And there should be a penalty for that,” said Padilla.
“Whether the penalty is civil or in another form, we should make sure we punish this wrong,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it supported the passage of House Bill No. 454 or the Media Workers’ Welfare Act on its final reading at the House of Representatives.
The CHR said the provisions are in accordance with Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution which guarantees workers’ rights to “security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage.”