Philippine Congress urged to vote against ‘privacy’ bill

August 31, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

DAGUPAN CITY: The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has urged Congress to withdraw or vote against the bill seeking to provide protection from intrusion for commercial purposes as the measure can be used to curtail press freedom and the right to free expression.

Under House Bill 4807, it is unlawful to trespass on private property in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of any individual, personal or family activity for commercial purposes. The bill provides that any person whose personal privacy was intruded may file civil action against the intruder and obtain relief, including compensatory damages.

The complainant may either be the person whose privacy was violated or the owner of the private property trespassed to capture the visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of another individual.

The fact that no visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of a person was actually sold for gain or profit would not be available as a defence in any civil action. The only exemption from the proposed law is legitimate law enforcement activities.

In statement posted on Facebook on Friday, NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan said that while HB 4807 may have been filed with all the best intentions in mind, “it poses an all too real threat not only to freedom of the press but on the very right to free expression.”

The NUJP explained that the bill’s aim to curb intrusions on personal privacy committed by any person in order to capture visual or sound impressions of an individual with intent to gain or profit is overly broad as are the provisions that list the ways by which violations may be committed.

“The measure’s intent is so broad it is likely to be used as another weapon for the criminal and the corrupt to escape accountability should it become law,” Paraan noted. She also pointed out that even cases where no visual image, sound recording or other physical impression of a person was actually sold for gain or profit are still punishable.

“We are sure that the authors of the bill know only too well that media outfits are essentially ‘for profit enterprises.’ But the institutional media aside, the measure could end up stifling citizen journalism and even simply taking pictures or videos for personal pleasure,” Paraan said.

 “In an era where technology is quickly breaking down the obstacles that hamper the flow of information and expression, which are the bedrock of democracy, HB 4807 could return us to the dark ages and worse, be used as a weapon of suppression and repression,” she added.

The Philippine star

 

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