Media group fears abuse of Rodriguez’s ‘privacy’ bill

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Saturday, August 30, 2014


A PROPOSED legislation that aims to protect the privacy of individuals may be used by those who violate the law as their form of shield, a media organization said.

In a statement posted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on social media Friday evening, the group expressed fear that the intent of House Bill (HB) 4807 can be exploited by the “criminal and the corrupt.”

HB 4807, authored by Cagayan de Oro second district Representative Rufus Rodriguez, is also known as “An Act to Provide Protection From Personal Intrusion for Commercial Purposes.”

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The measure, NUJP said, “may have been filed with all the best intentions in mind, it poses an all too real threat not only to freedom of the press but on the very right to free expression.”

The bill, intended to "curb acts of trespassing and other intrusions on personal privacy committed by any person in order to capture visual or sound impressions of an individual, with intent to gain or profit, is overly broad as are the provisions that list the ways by which violations may be committed," the group said.

The NUJP agrees that people are entitled to privacy, as guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution, in matters that are personal and have nothing to do with the public interest.

“But the measure’s intent is so broad,” it added. “It is likely to be used as another weapon for the criminal and the corrupt to escape accountability should it become law.”

What makes the legislation more insidious, the group said, is that the measure would punish even “the fact that no visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of a person was actually sold for gain or profit.”

“We are sure that the authors of the bill know only too well that media outfits are essentially ‘for profit’ enterprises. But the institutional media aside, the measure could end up stifling citizen journalism and even simply taking pictures or videos for personal pleasure,” NUJP said.

“In an era where technology is quickly breaking down the obstacles that hamper the flow of information and expression, which are the bedrock of democracy, HB 4807 could return us to the dark ages and worse, be used as a weapon of suppression and repression,” it added.

NUJP said it was “equally disturbed” at how the bill has swiftly made its way through the legislative mill to be approved on second reading without any of the sectors its passage would impact on informed about, much less invited to discuss its implications.

This was affirmed by veteran photojournalist Froilan Gallardo, who, in a previous interview with Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, said that the stakeholders of the legislation were not even invited for a dialogue with the bill’s proponents.

“The lawmakers did not even consult photographers, the photojournalists, and the videographers themselves, wala,” Gallardo told Sun.Star.

In the same article, Rodriguez assured the media practitioners, especially those who may be affected by the measure, that they will be invited to the House of Representative for a hearing.

“When the hearing will be conducted, we will invite the media and have them speak. They will definitely be called, [you can be] rest assured of that,” Rodriguez said.

For her part, NUJP national chair Rowena Paraan, in a TV interview Friday evening, said that instead of passing legislation like HB 4807, lawmakers should instead speed up the approval of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, HB 53, which until now is still pending at the Lower House.

Senate Billl 1733, the bill’s counterpart in the Senate, has already been approved last March.

But Paraan said she is glad that Rodriguez is willing to give the bill back to the committee for further discussion.

“Sana ma-consult ang stakeholders. He (Rodriguez) should see to it that any privacy protection law couldn’t be used to cover up a crime or abusive act. That it does not impede the free flow of information nor infringe on people’s right to free expression,” Paraan said in a text message to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Friday evening.

To this effect, the NUJP is urging the authors of HB 4807 to “withdraw the measure and member of the House of Representatives to vote it down should they fail to do so.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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