Senator Raffy Tulfo thinks the Philippines should decriminalize libel but excluded “fake journalists” in the mix as he insisted “extortionists” pretending to be journalists should be prosecuted for the crime.
The lawmaker, also a former radio broadcaster and anchor of the long-running public affairs program Wanted Sa Radyo, voiced his opinion during a Senate committee on Public Information and Mass Media hearing on the spread of fake news.
The senator acknowledged that decriminalizing libel was one of his campaign promises. Yet Tulfo seemed to take a backtrack after sharing that his office had done further research and concluded that libel should be maintained as a crime among “certain individuals.”
These individuals included “blocktimers,” or independent program producers who purchase “blocks” of airtime on certain stations or networks, as well as content creators he said were involved in an “attack and collect” scheme. This, Tulfo said, refers to creators masquerading as journalists hurling tirades against politicians until they are paid to stop.
“Those in the traditional media, the real journalists; they should not be slapped with cases. Libel needs to be decriminalized because of them,” he said.
For me, this should be differentiated. When it comes to true journalists I have no problem because they have accountability… for those pretending to be journalists on social media, nobody checks on them hence they can say what they want to say.”
Yet not everyone agreed with the tough-talking broadcaster on the panel, including University of the Philippines journalism professor Danilo Arao, who said that creating distinctions defeats the purpose of citizen journalism “that needs to be embraced and promoted.”