Bill that could impact on press freedom stalls after hurdling second reading


Philippine media

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The passage of a bill that purports to protect privacy but could adversely impact on press freedom has been stalled, although it has been approved on second reading, after some lawmakers raised concerns over its implications.

Although a bill is officially approved only after third reading, this has traditionally been considered a formality and the second reading is when a measure is considered practically passed.

However, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II of the House of Representatives said the approval on third reading of House Bill 4807, or the “Protection Against Personal Intrusion Act,” has been put “on hold” on the request of the concerned lawmakers, among them Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate.

Zarate said the measure would create a “chilling effect” on media practitioners and affect the practice of citizen journalism.

Photojournalists and videographers have also raised the alarm over the measure, which they say could stifle their ability to work.

The bill’s stated aim is to “promote and protect the personal privacy of every person by preventing intrusion of personal privacy or property and enjoining everyone to respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of every person.”

“Any person who willfully intrudes into the personal privacy of another, without the consent of that person and with the intent to gain or profit therefrom, shall be civilly liable to the offended party,” the measure says.

The only exemption is when it involves legitimate law enforcement activities.

Offenses may be committed through:

capturing by a camera or sound recording instrument of any type of visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of the person

trespassing on private property in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of any person

capturing any type of visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of a person or family activity through the use of a visual or auditory enhancement device even when no physical trespass has occurred, when the visual image, sound recording or other physical impression could not have been captured without a trespass if no enhancement device was used.

However, HB 4807 also says: “The fact that no visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of a person was actually sold for gain or profit shall not be available as a defense in any civil action or proceeding for the enforcement of the provisions of this act.”

Zarate said the measure is alarming because it would penalize the recording of anything “claimed as a personal or family matter even of public officials and personalities.”

“Even an innocuous selfie with public figures at the background” could qualify as intrusion of privacy under the bill, he added.

“This is absurd and we urge our colleagues to reconsider,” Zarate said.

The bill was authored by Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, Maximo Rodriguez Jr. of Abante Mindanao, Jorge Almonte of Misamis Occidental, Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu, Linabelle Ruth Villarica of Bulacan, Lito Atienza of Buhay partylist and Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan. (MNS)

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