DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called for the immediate decriminalization of libel following the controversial arrest of Maria Ressa and harassment on critical news outfit, Rappler.
NUJP stressed that the government’s unconscious mangling of the law will eventually endanger not only Rappler or the independent Philippine media but each and every Filipino who has ever posted anything online.
The position of the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation that an allegedly defamatory statement posted online will continue to be a crime unless the offending material is taken down means that anything and everything anyone posts anywhere on the web can be cause for criminal prosecution that could lead to long jail terms and crippling fines.
“So much so that, while we will never ever agree with suing anyone for criminal libel, we feel that we should point out that so-called trolls and other netizens prone to using abusive language against those they disagree with could open up themselves to prosecution,” NUJP added.
In contrary to NUJP’s bold appeal, former journalist and now senatorial candidate Jiggy Manicad said libel should stay a crime to prevent abuse by journalists.
“Dapat pa rin pong krimensiya para wala pong abuso sa hanay nating mamamahayag,” he said Sunday, February 17, on the ABS-CBN senatorial forum “Harapan 2019.”
A betrayal of the profession on which he built his name and reputation is how NUJP National Chairman Nonoy Espina describes Jiggy Manicad’s position on libel.
“It also shows how out of touch he really is with the realities faced by many journalists, especially in the provinces,” he added.
It should also be stressed that criminal libel is a threat not only to journalists but to everyone. Meaning, trolls who constantly insult and harass people online could find themselves in the same situation as Maria Ressa, whose ordeal they now applaud.(Christine Grace Varron Sabute,HCDC intern/davaotoday.com)