Controlling The Online Media

click to open the news articleThis blog post is for current bloggers in the Philippines and the would be ones among the Internet café owners who may decide to go blogging as their pastime. In the second of two-part news reports by Mr. Alexander Villafania of INQUIRER.net about the round table discussion on Internet Surveillance and Social Controls, he talks about the issue of controlling the online or web media. He reported that apart from anti-pornography laws that can throttle freedom of both individual and businesses on cyberspace, the ‘Right to Reply’ bill filed at the Senate is also seen to have dire effects on Internet freedom.

In the recent discussion on Internet governance and surveillance held at the De La Salle University Institute of Governance, the participants tackled  the control mechanisms against the media, both “offline” and online. The ‘Right to Reply’ bill filed by Senators Aquilino Pimentel, Ramon Revilla, Jr. and Francis “Chiz” Escudero was the one referred to by  National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Deputy Secretary General Alwyn Alburo when he stressed that while the bill’s principles of journalist responsibility is not being challenged, the bill’s provision that requires giving space or airtime for those who deemed wronged by the media to reply is one that has raised many objections from journalists.

The proposed law even adds online media as those who have to give space to those allegedly accused so there is also a question whether the bill could also affect ordinary people who own blogs and write scathing criticisms or accusations against certain personalities. This also becomes an issue to those who are exercising their own freedom of speech online including bloggers.  What is worse is that Mr. Villafania also reported that in a previous interview with the Inquirer, Kabataan party-list Representative Mong Palatino informed him that a Congress version of the proposal, House Bill 3306 would also cover the Internet social networking sites.

In the same discussion, Department of Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy countered that journalists on any given media platform should always require restraint in reporting, citing to the concept of “strike but hear me first.” As a participant in the discussion, I pointed out most blogs have comment boxes where anyone in particular can air their side regarding the issues on the blog. I also asked if it is not enough to have such comment feature in blogs.

After hearing the questions and answers in the round table discussion about Internet governance, surveillance and social control, it is becoming clearer to me that our present government are doing steps to limit or regulate everyone’s current free access to information in the Internet. If we will not do our part in bringing our sides on the issues, we may wake up one day when there is no longer online freedom to enjoy.

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