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Philippines to expand journalists’ right
The House panel chaired by Rep. Jorge Almonte of Misamis Occidental Province earlier approved Committee Report 50 on House Bill 362 (in consolidation with HB Nos. 1629 and 1963) authored principally by Reps. Raul del Mar of Cebu City, Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, Partylist Maximo Rodriguez and Harlin Abayon of Northern Samar Province.
HB 362 seeks to exempt the publisher, editor, or reporter of any publication from revealing the source of published news or information obtained in confidence by including within its coverage journalists from broadcast, news agencies and internet publications.
Republic Act No. 53 has been the journalist's privilege statute which ensures he/she can refuse to reveal the source of a confidential news report or information except when the court or a Committee of Congress finds that the revelation is demanded by the security of the State.
"The reason for the rule is that the identity of sources of a confidential news information must be protected, otherwise the spring of data for news or commentary dries up and the mission of the press to check and balance and expose wrongdoing is impeded," Del Mar stressed.
With the dawn of modern technology, HB 362 expands the coverage to broadcast journalists, news agencies and internet publications which are otherwise not covered by the Sotto Law.
"Protection extends to the publisher, station manager and/or manager, bureau chief, editor, news editor, writer or reporter, correspondents, opinion columnists or commentators, cartoonists, photographers, or any practitioner involved in the gathering, writing, editing of and commenting on the news," the authors clarified.
Oddly, however, the current privilege applies only to the publisher, editor, columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation. The law is silent about journalists from broadcast stations, news or wire agencies, and internet newspapers, magazines and other publications," they further explained.
"It is an omission that must be filled, an anomaly that must be corrected, the journalists envisioned by the law cannot be confined to print practitioners," the committee report stressed.