By PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The libel clause in the recently passed anti-cybercrime law is meant to “level the playing field” between the mainstream media and the social media, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said.
“It is not meant to curtail press freedom,” he told a forum Friday at the Marcelo B. Fernan Press Center here as part of the 18th Cebu Press Freedom Week.
Sotto, recently criticized for allegedly plagiarizing other people’s works, denied reports he inserted the libel clause at the last minute.
He said the Senate version of Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, was by Sen. Edgardo Angara.
Except during plenary debates, Sotto said he had no participation in the crafting of the law.
He said the bill was passed at the committee level in the last quarter of 2012, before accusations of plagiarism against him surfaced.
Under RA 10175, online libel can be punished under the Revised Penal Code.
The law provides penalties against online content-related offenses like cybersex and child pornography, unsolicited commercial communications or cyber-squatting.
Sotto, who earlier claimed he was a victim of cyber-bullying, said that while the mainstream media are bound by rules, social media users can get away with libel.
Sotto said he supports moves to decriminalize libel, even though he believes that “libel laws should not pose problems to responsible journalists.”
“I always believe that free media is best for democracy,” he said.
“I would be the first to oppose any measures that attempt to curtail press freedom.”
Sotto said he filed in 2010 a bill seeking to amend the Sotto Law, which guarantees the right of print journalists not to reveal their sources unless the security of the state requires it.
He said the amendment seeks to include radio and TV journalists.