The College Editors Guild of the Philippines and allied organizations filed a motion for reconsideration today against the Supreme Court’s latest ruling on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. While amendments against the law’s most controversial provisions have been made, campaigners insist this is inadequate, and that the Court’s decision to retain “electronic libel” as a criminal offence is in direct violation of the freedom of speech.
CEGP believes that the authority the law grants the state to directly or indirectly monitor people’s internet activity is not only a threat to privacy, it is a means to silence journalists and the youth from raising their voices and holding those in power to account.
Young people, the most active users of the internet, are particularly vulnerable to the SC ruling’s implications. Philippine Law, deriving its definition of libel from the Revised Penal code of 1930, still considers Libel a criminal offence.
Upholding ‘online’ libel means a person can be imprisoned for up to twelve years. Given the nature of cyberspace, and the sheer volume of potentially ‘libelous’ comments being aired every second, the law is impossible to practically implement on the ground.
It also has a “chilling effect”, CEGP-NCR Chairperson Charina Claustro explained, in that “the law harms the democratic freedom of the press and the people. Despite the fact that the United Nations Human Rights Council said that criminal libel in the Philippines is ‘excessive,’ the government is the law with the aid of Supreme Court justices, some of whom were appointed by the Aquino administration. This is a major backward step from the global campaign to decriminalize libel.”
“The fight against Cybercrime Law continues. Young people and internet users everywhere must unite to protect and uphold our democratic rights and freedom of expression. The internet is a democratic space for us to freely express our ideas and to exchange thoughts with other people around the world and it should remain so.” Claustro said.