Easing media restrictions

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    ANOTHER law on the media industry has been signed by President Duterte: the law protecting the identities of sources who share confidential and usually explosive information with mediamen.

    Whereas before, the old law provides that publishers, editors, columnists and reporters of print media such as newspapers and magazines are exempted from revealing their sources, the new Republic Act 11458 signed by the President last Aug. 30 expands such exemption to publisher, owner or duly recognized or accredited journalist, writer, reporter, editor, columnist and media practitioner involved in writing, editing, production and dissemination of news for mass circulation, whether in print, broadcast or electronic mass media.

    The law stressed that these media practitioners “cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news item, report or information.” Identities of news sources can only be divulged on orders of a court, the Congress or any of its committees, but only when the disclosure is “demanded by the security of the state.”

    RA 11458 is a product of the 17th Congress, and its authors are ecstatic that the President signed it into law. Senate President Vicente Sotto III thanked Duterte and reaffirmed his advocacy for freedom of information. Sen. Grace Poe, another author, hailed the signing of the new law, saying “this is a legislation whose time has not only come, but is well past due. Source protection should extend to all members of the media and across all platforms.”

    Sen. Poe offered some platitudes which, although heard often before, still carry a relevant message: “Freedom of the press and the right of the public to know are fortified when the media is able to gather and report news unimpaired and unafraid. Several times, anonymous sources played the key to uncovering anomalies and corruption, making wrongdoers accountable.”

    The significance of RA 11458 is that it recognizes social media as the newest branch of media with the same status as the older print and broadcast.

    This development should prompt the experts and practitioners of social media to elevate their craft to a level worthy of official recognition by the government. This means we can expect more responsible information vetting and less fake news from the local social media, which is the least social media netizens can do to note with gratitude the efforts of government to legitimize their calling.

    Fake news and vitriolic propaganda have been the bane of the general public, most especially officials, and these are often disseminated in social media, the reason why this sector continues to struggle to shed off its perceived notoriety.

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