Libel and cybercrime laws in the Philippines

Filippino journalist Marites Vitug speaks about her experience being charged with libel for her investigative journalism, freedom of the press in the Philippines and the new cybercrime law.

Interview with Filippino journalist Marites Vitug

Marites Vitug tells of her how she was charged with libel for publishing an online article and a book about a Supreme Court Justice’s involvement in his son’s political career (0:12 min). Journalists working outside the capital Manila are facing more dangers than those in the city, but also Marites Vitug received death threats during her libel trial (2:00 min). Libel is a criminal offence in the Philippines, which Vitug believes should change to allow for a freer press (3:55 min). The Philippines have a history of being a very free and robust press before authoritarian rule (5:20 min) so that the libel law has been a major force to limit freedom of the press. In Southeast Asia the Philippine’s press is still one of the freest with online media growing (6:30 min). The problem is a lack of a Freedom to Information law (7:oo min) so that it is difficult to get reliable information. The media in the Philippines fulfils the role of a public space and informing the population (8:40 min). But private ownership is a problem as it leads to a narrowing of voices (9:30 min). These large media corporations engage in other businesses and infringe on freedom to report because of vested interests (10:20 min). While there is no state censorship in the Philippines but the slow judicial system is a problem (12:00 min). The cybercrime law will limited freedom of expression online majorly as it makes online libel a crime and allows the government to take down websites it holds to be  libellous. It also violates privacy rights (12: 30 min). Despite the dangers journalists still reveal corruption (15:30 min). Corruption, religion and insurgency are sensitive topics in the Philippines (16:00 min). The internet and new technologies have opened up the media environment but due to a low internet penetration rate (30%) it is only limited (17:40 min). News websites are now a force in the national media (18:40 min). Citizen journalism is also on the rise (19:25 min).

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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