Philippine media group criticizes lawmaker over right of reply bill

25 September 2009
Source: CMFR

The following is a statement by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, a SEAPA member based in Manila, Philippines:

His Own Worst Argument

(Statement of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on the August 25 privilege speech of Representative Rodante Marcoleta of the Alagad Party List)

Representative Rodante Marcoleta’s August 25 privilege speech at the House of Representatives completely misses the point about the Right of Reply Bill. A Right of Reply Bill may extend to non-media people the same right to free expression that’s being claimed by the media. But it would be at the cost of press freedom.

Rep. Marcoleta similarly misses the point as far as the media’s ethical responsibility of providing space and time to those whose views may not have been adequately presented. Compelling compliance with this ethical imperative through a law infringes on the editorial prerogative, fundamental to the news media, of deciding with neither fear nor favor what to publish or air.

The “Philippine Daily Inquirer” editorial the congressman tried to use as a justification for the Right of Reply Bill on the other hand does exactly the opposite. By admitting an error of fact and correcting it, the “Inquirer” demonstrated that a newspaper does not need a law, only its commitment to the values of fairness and accuracy, to comply with ethical standards. And yet Rep. Marcoleta would hold the “Inquirer’s” effort at accuracy and fairness against it.

Rep. Marcoleta also cites the examples of several European countries where a Right of Reply law is in force, but forgets his own warning, made in connection with the 1974 US Supreme Court ruling that right of reply laws are unconstitutional, that every country’s situation is different. In the case of the Philippines , the danger in a Right of Reply Bill is the present regime’s hostility towards the press, which it regards as a major factor in exposing the corruption that rules it.

Rep. Macoleta’s speech reeks of the same antipathy towards the press that has been driving the Arroyo regime’s policy towards the independent media. It is its own worst argument, and demonstrates once more the urgency of continuing press and public opposition to the Right of Reply Bill, the Senate version of which Rep. Marcoleta would have the House pass without going through the bicameral committee.

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CMFR (
http://cmfr.com.ph/) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.

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