Miriam wants to include online journalists, bloggers in bill protecting media workers

SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago said on Wednesday that online journalists and bloggers should be included in a Senate bill seeking to protect journalists.

Senate Bill No. 455, now pending in the Senate plenary, amends the Penal Code provision on murder. It qualifies to murder the killing of members of the broadcast and print media in the lawful exercise of their functions.

“There is no reason why only members of the broadcast and print media should be included in the proposed law,” Santiago said. “Due regard must also be given to practitioners of the ‘digital media,’ or those whose mode of communication is the internet and mobile phones.”

According to Santiago, the digital media is now widely used by media practitioners to relay information.

She said that the fast and accessible nature of the digital media has encouraged traditional print and broadcast media giants such as ABS-CBN, GMA, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, and the Manila Bulletin to venture into their own websites and mobile phone programs to disseminate information.

“Many newspaper journalists also post socio-political commentaries using their own web-based journals,” the senator said.

“Further, with the popularity of blogs and video-sharing websites such as YouTube, there are now a lot of people who regularly post sensitive political commentaries online, with content similar to those traditionally published in newspapers or broadcasted over television. Even though they are not traditionally referred to as members of the media, they may actually be exposed to the same dangers encountered by institutional media practitioners,” Santiago explained.

Santiago cited as an example the case of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who was reportedly subjected to harassment and threats after his website published sensitive and confidential information, including hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

The senator also cited the 2009 case of an online journalist in Russia who was forced to go into hiding after receiving threats for an article critical of the Russian government, which he published on his website.

“It is clear that practitioners of the digital media are exposed to the same dangers that print and broadcast media practitioners are exposed to, so they should likewise be given protection by the law,” Santiago said.

Santiago proposed that the bill include in its scope all media practitioners in general. She said that media practitioners should include print journalists, television journalists, photojournalists, online journalists, radio journalists, novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, feature filmmakers, documentary makers, television production, professional photographers, professional videographers, and public relations contractors. PNA


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