Nat’l Press Club of the Philippines retracts statement backing Anti-Cybercrime Law

A few hours after lauding the signing into law of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, saying it was society’s weapon against ‘irresponsible’ bloggers, the National Press Club retracted its statement and apologized to citizen journalists.
The retraction followed an outpouring of scathing remarks from both journalists and bloggers: The NPC’s fawning praise came at the expense of freedom of expression. It was also riddled with contradictions.
In its original statement, the NPC said it was part of the fight to decriminalize libel. Yet after assuring fellow citizens that Republic Act 10175 was all about catching criminals operating in cyberspace, the NPC issued an astounding claim:
“…responsible and legitimate members of the press should not entertain the thought that the law’s provision on libel would curtail or diminish our basic rights on freedom of expression and of free speech.”
“…. the target of the law’s punitive provisions, especially libel, are the so-called ‘bloggers’ and other unscrupulous authors of damaging remarks against any person. Many of these often anonymous elements are masquerading as ‘legitimate’ members of the press.”
“These are the people who hide in the cloak of anonymity by coming out with bogus Internet accounts to destroy other people’s lives and reputation.”
To be fair, the retraction and apoology is straight to the point. In a phone conversation, NPC Antiporda acknowledged the statement’s flaws and said the club had actualy meant cyber-bullies rather than the more generic term, bloggers. Here is the retraction sent by NPC president Benny Antiporda.
“The National Press Club of the Philippines retracts its statement lauding the signing of the Cybercrime Law (Republic Act 10175) into law by President Benigno Aquino III.

“The National Press Club also apologizes for any offense it may have caused to bloggers, citizen journalists and campus journalists, who may have felt included in the statements made by NPC president Benny Antiporda in the text of the NPC’s earlier statement.

“We sincerely apologize to the bloggers, citizen journalists and campus journalists whom our statement may have offended,” Antiporda said. “We intended no offense and we offer our sincerest apologies as we retract our statement.”

“What we wanted to stress in that statement was that there must be responsibility and accountability in making information public online, as well as offline, in other media” he said.

“Antiporda also said the NPC will continue its efforts to push for the decriminalization of libel so that the existing libel law under the Revised Penal Code.

“We will also continue to push for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill,” he added.

It’s a brave new world, cyberspace. It carries great potential for good and harm. The next blog will discuss how a bill that should have focused on running after dangerous criminals ended with a sneaky attack on freedom of expression — at a time when the administration is turning its back on the campaign pledge to prioritize passage of the Freedom of Information Bill.

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