RA 10175: Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012

Much debate online and offline has been going on about the recent Cybercrime Prevention Act signed into law by the President Aquino on Sept 12. The law, also known as RA 10175 took effect some two days ago.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the technalities of legal writing and such, but here’s a layman’s post on how a layman understands this issue.

The most controversial provision seems to be the one on libel which falls under Chapter 2 (Punishable Acts) Section 4 in Content-related Offenses. It says,

Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

Well, I don’t really know, much less remember, what “Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code” says. So here’s how it goes, apparently:

 Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means…

But hold on, that doesn’t really define what “libel” is, does it? Two articles up of the above quote, we see a definition of libel:

Art. 353. Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

Oops, sorry for those chunks of quotes – just had to set it right. Our Media Law class taught me to get the definitions straight first. Anyway, back to our discussion.

So, as I understand it, libel is a malicious accusation discrediting someone. For it to be “libel”, it has to be publicized as well.  Now, RA 10175 has redefined libel to encompass acts “committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future” aside from “by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means”.

My question is, are tweets, Facebook messages, comments, blogs and the considered publications? Well, we “publish” them in the online world so they may very well be. However, we also consider them facets of our expression, and thus covered by “freedom of expression” as promised to us by our Philippine Constitution. Will the law then abridge this freedom by meddling into our social networking account activities, for example?

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility cites how libel has been used against journalists. In a statement against the Act, CMFR says,

Libel as a criminal offense has been used by past administrations as well as local officials today to harass and intimidate journalists. The outstanding example of its use against journalists was the filing by Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo of 11 libel suits against 46 journalists during the disputed presidency of his wife Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. And yet Congress has through the decades ignored the demand from journalists and human rights groups for the decriminalization of libel.

Furthermore, the same CMFR statement says that the Act “can signal the opening of the floodgates of Internet regulation that will affect Filipino netizens” and that “[i]t is a distinct possibility to which journalists and bloggers, ordinary citizen and anyone committed to free expression through whatever medium, should be alert, and must be prepared to combat.”

Journalists have been known to call legislators’ attention to decriminalize libel, arguing that the profession has ethical standards to guide them and that responsibility and right restraint should come from the people of the profession themselves rather than government regulation. With the passage of this Act, journalists will not be the only ones affected but everyone who uses the internet to share opinion as well – thus meriting the outcry of netizens who changed their profile pictures to black to express disapproval.

However, might this be just netizens overacting to a law that serves a good purpose – it has other provisions aside from the one on libel, after all – ? This reaction, however, might seem logical when taken into perspective. Libel has indeed been used to silence the press.

A current law student and former Journalism classmate, Johanna Perez in a blog post, however, encourages us to “have a little faith in our criminal justice system.” She says that “[j]ust because you write something libelous, it does not mean that you are an instant criminal. A criminal is someone who has been tried and convicted by our courts. To put it bluntly, you are only a criminal if you get caught and convicted.” She also writes how people protesting the Act calling themselves “cybercriminals” aren’t really “cybercriminals” yet but “cyber bullies”.

Although I ended up having more questions than answers in the course of my writing this post, I realized that the Cybercrime Prevention Act does address pertinent issues. The law, in itself, seems to be geared towards good causes. However, due to the Filipinos’ past experiences dealing with freedom curtailment and the laws being circumvented to curtail basic rights, they have reacted violently. Maybe it’s how the law will be implemented (as it is prone to abuse) that scares us more than the law itself.

Read RA 10175 here and the Book 2 of the Revised Penal Code here.

Advertisements

Mourning ala Media

I was away on vacation when the news broke out. It didn’t make sense at first when I read a friend’s tweet about “using physics” to look for someone. With my attention span, I dismissed it as one of those tweets that I’d soon forget.

Later that day, however, it was all over the news – DILG Secretary’s Jesse Robredo’s plane crash. (Truth be told, I haven’t heard of him before the incident. I fail as a Journalism student that way.) Only then did I make the connection to that tweet I unconsciously dismissed as “not newsworthy”. Soon, it was what my friends and I talked over at the breakfast table – the plane crash, the search efforts and consequently, his body being found and identified. (This says a lot, me being the only one taking a course related to media during that trip.) Our ride to the beach was also marked by reading front-page articles on the late secretary’s death and the crash. Our dinner table was tuned in to shows featuring his life and accomplishments.

The social medium had the details covered – the ongoing rescue missions and quotes from politicians and co-workers such as Mar Roxas. It was a blow-by-blow cover, as expected of micro-social networking sites such as Twitter. The broadcast medium had emotion-filled shows dealing with Robredo’s life accomplishments and testimonials while the broadsheets had his photos all over – from the front page banner and even to multiple photos in the inside pages. If not for the incident, I would have never known that such a well-liked politician existed. Media seemed to have instantly proclaimed him a little short of a saint – singing praises of an exemplar father and politician and mourning a great loss – which he is, in this corruption-laden country. (But I don’t know, I just unconsciously distrust eulogies in general. Though they may be factual, they’re too emotionally-laden to be balanced.)

Though I did not get to read-up on the incident as much as I would have on a normal weekday, it made me realize how despite being “on vacation” from the internet, media has still managed to get through me, albeit only in trickles.

Ctrl W, quick!

More, please.

http://thoughtcatalog.com
They say time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted. Reading through Thought Catalog posts is one of those better ways to spend time on the internet while making some brain cells work – two things that seldom come together. It’s like my tumblr feed, only more insightful. Font style and centered text, perfect. Ads, er, forgivable.

http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo and http://aboutph.com/
Travelling is such a thrilling thing to do. Though adventures involving random train or jeep rides with no destination in mind excite me as well, there’s nothing like reading up on a place or cafe, deciding to visit, making an itinerary and finally getting to see with your own eyes the place/s you’ve only read about in those blogs (though sometimes they fail to meet your expectations)! As much as I love travelling, cultural and musical events excite me, too. Missing out on events would be too much of a loss that I frequent these sites’ calendars just to see if there’s anything coming up.

http://yowayowacamera.com/
An amazing blog of a woman “levitating” in places. One of the many photoblogs I enjoy!

Eyesores

http://loca.ash.jp/
If not for the VERY relevant information (shooting locations of Japanese films and dramas) I wouldn’t find anywhere else in the web, I wouldn’t be frequenting this site. Though its content makes up for the text-heavy layout, this website is a definite eyesore.

Government websites such as http://dost.gov.ph/ and http://denr.gov.ph/
Don’t most government websites look the same to you? With a seemingly uniform 3-column layout, flashy colors and portraits of politicians smiling at you… well, they do to me.

http://www.marinecorps.mil.ph/
I mean, really? Marquee text? I thought we left marquees in the 90’s.

SONA 2012: “Report kay Boss”

Friends were inviting me to join them watch Batman Rises last Monday. I couldn’t miss watching SONA live, I said. There was a particular thrill in watching it real-time, despite doing so alone in my room – a particular feeling of one-ness, perhaps, knowing that all around the Philippines, my fellow countrymen were hanging on every word our dear president had to say. It was after all, as he would say, a “Report kay Boss.”

Being part of the hype: tweeting and retweeting news

Twitter was flooded with updates, the SONA2012 hash tag and my timeline even so – having been following a number of local news accounts and politically eager friends. Tweets I read for around two hours extended from meaningful quotes, to who arrived and what they were wearing, where PNoy was, previous news stories on an issue that the president mentioned, and even to friends’ side comments. Tweets provided me with the behind-the-scenes too, as some friends who were on the ground rallying were also sharing thoughts through their personal accounts.

#SONA2012 tweets ranged from facts about the speech, to meaningful quotes, updates and opinions

As an assessment of the news coverage, I’d say the media fared well. Not bad, but not perfect either.

News analysis shows invited guests to talk about local issues and to provide their opinions, but broadcasts also took time featuring what SONA attendees were wearing – time which could have been used better by providing more information and background on the issues expected to be tackled by the president. Protesters, as always, were shown in a bad light. How I dream of a time when media would provide these demonstrators the opportunity to sit down and explain their side – why they were there and what they were fighting for. I keep seeing comments from news readers criticizing the supposed lack of principle of these protesters. Despite the widespread belief that these people just mindlessly ostracize the president, however, I believe they were there for a purpose – to show a different side of the story and to tell people that there are issues that need to be addressed which weren’t, and that statistics do not mean anything without the proper background.

On a positive note, I think it was commendable how news analysis shows invited political analysts and economists to talk about the current local issues. These speakers provided an in-depth background on the issues, which the roughly an hour and a half speech could not. These individuals also helped in putting into layman’s terms the statistics presented in the SONA. In social media, I particularly found Rappler’s tweets helpful. Rappler’s twitter account provided links on previous stories done on a particular issue mentioned in the SONA. For example, context on the proposed increase in budget for the SUCs, land distribution and increase in local tourism.

The Rappler twitter account simultaneously tweeted previously published articles to provide context on issues being tackled in the SONA.

Broadcasts, despite sometimes dwelling on the trivialities of the SONA such as who was wearing what, also provided meaningful information on current issues through their invited guests. Social media, in particular, played a great role in its reportage by providing highlights of the speech and in some cases, simultaneously providing links to articles which could provide deeper context on an issue.

In and Out of the Classroom: Classroom Teachings vs Industry Expectations

A university’s role is supposedly to prepare its students for the “real world”. As in any preparation, disparities between the two worlds could appear. Skills taught by the university and those needed by the industry may not often coincide perfectly. Here are some of my thoughts on classroom teachings vs industry expectations in the journalism career.

Journalism school taught me to cover today’s event and submit an output “next week” (though I learned how to cram them a day before the deadline, too) whereas the media industry expects us to pre-write the known facts and beat the now deadline. A practicing journalist friend was even writing obituaries of (who I assume to be) healthy personalities just in case. This was a norm in the modern we-must-be-the-first-to-break-the-news world of media, I was told.

In this each-journalist-by-himself industry, practitioners are also expected to find, choose, gather and even scrounge or sniff for news and information. We protect our sources and contacts not only from possible harm but from fellow journalists who threaten to vanquish our hopes for a scoop. In the comforts of our journalism classes, however,  friends, classmates or blockmates are allies – allies who would accompany you through newsgathering legworks, verify your data when you can’t make sense of your own handwriting, and send you interview transcriptions (though sometimes they ask you to transcribe as well). We are spoonfed with event details – when, what, where to cover well ahead of schedule. No breaking stories, no sir. No nosebleed, finance/economics-related or technical/scientific issues either, nope. We’d all just rather do a story on an academic forum, thanks. 🙂

Except for relentless feedbacks from a few professors who are revered for their greatness but avoided by “grade conscious” students, journalism school does not prepare a student, emotionally, to handle strict editors or audience feedback. Nope, no threats of losing your job and no editors hanging around your shoulders reminding you to submit your article NOW.

What journalism school did develop in me, however, was a sense of responsibility in news reportage and the needed skills to critically analyze and report data – not just as he-said-she-said. We are constantly reminded to provide accurate facts, meaningful context and the issue’s significance to our audience. We were also taught how to make the most ethical judgment possible in a given situation (though still in a classroom setting… but at least!) and were encouraged to stand by them.

Though journalism school* churns out idealistic fresh graudates, it does not teach us all of the skills the industry expects us to acquire before we obtain a diploma. What it does give us, however, is the drive to survive the “real world”. Heck, we’ve survived X years of UP Journ. We’ve come a long way and we’ve still got a lot to learn.

Amid the discrepancies in what journalism professors teach and what the media industry expects, I realize that there are just things I can only learn by facing the harsh realities of the “real world”.

_____________________________________________________

*specifically referring to the UP Journalism curriculum, as I am not familiar with journalism programs of other universities.

Online Journalism: Keeping up with the times

In this fast-evolving world of media, the newsroom is no longer a physical “room” (conference calls, anyone?) and lay-outing no longer entail cutting typewritten articles and sticking them to newspaper dummies. As much as humans evolved through adaptation, journalists, too, must adapt to the requirements of modern-day journalism – a large chunk of which is online.

“This is the machine we use to transfer footage from tapes to digital files… we seldom use it nowadays.” This was on day two of my internship in a news wire agency and our mentors were giving us a crash course on the whole “news broadcast production” process.

Just like the old converting/editing machine my mentor introduced to us, some aspects of journalism are fast becoming obsolete. In contrast, online journalism has been (and is still on the process of) evolving. There are skills we, future journalists, don’t need anymore and there are those we have to learn by ourselves.

For one, the internet – much more, online journalism – was unimaginable centuries ago yet here we are, the modern society, who highly depend on the online world for our relationships (Facebook and Skype), education (UP Open University and UVLe) and information (news websites, blogs, etc.)

In journalism school, we are trained to be innovative and flexible in adapting to the needs of our audience and in employing various media platforms. Perhaps two of the strengths of UP’s journalism program are how it (1) employs practicing journalists who are in the know of the current trends in the industry and (2) requires students to undergo an internship program.

Being practicing journalists themselves, professors can covey up-to-date information, develop in their students the needed skills for the profession, and share real-life encounters. Additionally, being an intern for a news organization, students face the “real” world – which their classes have supposedly prepared them for. Developing a student’s needed skills for the profession is given priority over feeding him/her with (soon-to-be) obsolete data.

“How is online journalism changing media as we know it?”

For the journalist of today, the deadline is no longer at four in the afternoon, it is always now.

 

Having been given the opportunity to be a part of the social media division as an intern of a news channel during the national elections two years ago, I experienced how the online medium has transformed newsgathering and reporting. My mentors would be watching live broadcasts and simultaneously tweeting relevant information, uploading videos of news footages, checking readers’ feedback via a couple of social networking sites and verifying “tips” from online news sources. It would also be understandable if they were wary of competitors beating them by a few minutes in breaking big stories.

Online journalism is paving the way for accessible, cheap and prompt news reports. Amidst the popularity of free-for-all unlimited online content however, is the increased triviality of news. Although unburdened by traditional newsprint space and cost constraints, journalists must now manage to stay on top of the flood of information threatening to drown online readers and their short attention span. He/She is expected to be catchy, concise and creative – often at 140 characters at a time – as online journalism gears towards multimedia and interactivity across platforms – usually a website, a facebook page, a twitter account and perhaps a tumblr page, too. Increased citizen participation and feedback means that media is being kept in check but may also pose challenges in data verification and abiding by newsgathering ethics (e.g. videos, pictures and “tips” from citizen reporters).