MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine media groups said Tuesday a new law targeting cybercrime could also be used to curb press freedom.
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also criticized the government for passing the law while delaying a proposed freedom of information act.
They said in separate statements that the law signed by President Benigno Aquino III last week includes libel as a cybercrime despite efforts by press freedom advocates to decriminalize the offense.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said bloggers and others in social media should remember that freedom should be accompanied by responsibility.
Sen. Edgardo Angara, one of the authors of the law, said it provides a legal framework for detecting, investigating and suppressing cybercrimes such as hacking, identity theft, spamming, cybersex and online child pornography.
Last month, Philippine police broke up a group allegedly involved in online fraud, arresting 380 foreigners, mostly Chinese and Taiwanese, in raids on 20 houses in metropolitan Manila and nearby Rizal province.
However, the media groups noted that the new law incorporates an 82-year-old penal provision against libel.
The law shows "how restrictive rather than expansive is the mindset of the country's legislators and of Mr. Aquino himself" in promoting accountability, transparency, press freedom and free expression, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said.
Aquino has promised transparent governance and support for freedom of information, but has also said that national security and the confidentiality of some government projects need to be considered.
The journalist union said the new law is "a threat not only against the media and other communicators but anyone in the general public who has access to a computer and the Internet."
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