As protests mount, SC issues TRO on cybercrime law. Activists rally in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to urge magistrates to issue a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The court issued a TRO after receiving 15 petitions questioning the law's constitutionality.
International media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (Reporders Sans Frontieres/RSF) said the Phillipines' Anti-Cybercrime Law (Republic Act 10175) should be repealed outright.
"Reporters Without Borders takes the view that the amendments being proposed will not suffice and that the law should be repealed outright. Combating cybercrime is legitimate but this law, which added online defamation to its list of 'cybercrimes' at the last moment, poses too much of a threat to freedom of information," it said.
It added it is "regrettable that the authorities did not consult sufficiently with civil society during the drafting process, which lacked transparency."
RSF also said
it is worried by the lack of a precise definition of online defamation, which exposes all Internet users to the possibility of prosecution.
Many questions are being raised about the law, it said, including:
- Could an ordinary "like" on Facebook or an online comment about allegedly defamatory content lead to prosecution? Or could retweeting this kind of content lead to prosecution?
Would bloggers be held liable for the defamatory comment that visitors post on their blogs?
- Could Internet Service Providers or other technical intermediaries be held liable for offending content posted by an unidentified person, as recently happened in Brazil? - Would they be forced to adopt intrusive surveillance measures in order to identify Internet users liable for prosecution?
In the Philippines, RSF said libel is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of P200 to P6,000 under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.
But under Chapter III Section 8 of Republic Act No. 10175, online defamation is punishable by up to 12 years in prison and a fine of P1 million.
"Concern about possible abuse of the new law is justified given the frequency with politicians and other public figures have sued journalists and news media in recent years to get them to censor themselves," it said.
It added that while Sen. Edgardo Angara said the Cybercrime Prevention Act is meant to "encourage the use of cyberspace" and protect against its "abuse and misuse," Global Voices quotes Internet users as describing the inclusion of online defamation in the law as a "clumsy cut-and-paste job" that is completely inappropriate to the Internet and could pave the way to abuses.
"The law’s articles on online defamation are an almost word-for-word copy of the definition of libel in article 353 of the Reformed Penal Code, simply adding that they apply to defamation committed by electronic means," it said.
RSF also noted Asia’s first murder of a journalists in 2012 took place in the Philippines, which remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the media and which was ranked 140th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. — ELR/TJD, GMA News