By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
(On this week’s issue we are giving this space to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines National Directorate.)
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines urges lawmakers not to be hasty in accepting a proposal to empower the Department of Information and Communication Technology to shut down social media accounts deemed “inimical to national interest” in amendments being considered to the Human Security Act of 2007, or the anti-terror law.
The Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs, and national defense on security were reported by media to have backed the proposal made by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency at a hearing Tuesday. The proposal is one of a number of suggested amendments to the law that pose potential and real threats to our civil liberties, including freedom of expression and of the press.
The chair of the national defense committee happens to be Senator Gregorio Honasan, who is slated to become the next DICT head.
Ironically, not only did media report Honasan and Sentor Panfilo Lacson, chair of the public order committee, as acknowledging the proposal would likely be “contentious,” the incoming DICT head also admitted that, aside from providing adequate safeguards,” there is no assurance it would not be used against critics or foes of government.
The senator’s concerns are not without basis, especially under this administration – not that past governments have not demonstrated a similar bent – which has practically subverted the rule of law and undermined the institutions that provide the checks and balances essential to democracy.
Despite his misgivings, Honasan apparently has no qualms about using the proposal against “incomplete, inaccurate, malicious information” by media, a notion he raised as a question to Marwil Llasos, anti-terrorism program coordinator of the Institute of International Legal Studies, who was reported as backing the measure because “what is paramount is the police power of the state.”
In fact, Llasos even suggested what amounts to prior restraint, proposing that that media franchises, which are approved by Congress, include a provision on “balanced reporting” especially about terrorism.
While we do recognize the need to secure our country and people from the threat of terrorism, we stress that it would do far more harm than good if it meant surrendering our most basic civil rights and liberties.
A truly enlightened and free people would be more inclined and better suited to defend democracy than a cowed and fearful populace.
We demand that our legislators recognize the primacy of our people’s rights and liberties, especially press freedom and of expression, above all other considerations.# nordis.net