Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Environmental journalists group marks its 2nd year on World Environment Day

This day is an important milestone for the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists (PNEJ) as it celebrates its second year of existence in empowering local journalists to increase the quality and quantity of environmental reporting.

PNEJ believes that World Environment Day (WED) 2012 is the right time to imitate solutions on environmental issues and to advocate partnership which will ensure our society enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

For the past year, PNEJ has proven its special role as communicators to make the public better understand issues climate change, destructive large-scale mining, illegal logig, biodiversity extinction, coral reefs destruction and over-fishing, pollution, water and waste mismanagement and other pressing environmental issues in the Philippines.

PNEJ would like to thank its supporters for believing in its thrust and mandate in drumming up critical environmental issues as well as empowering local journalists to report on various issues.

For the years ahead, PNEJ hoped to bring environmental causes into the national spotlight through producing more in-depth reporting, trainings for local journalists, learning trips for journalists to come up with stories that tackles solutions, connecting with experts, the academe, local government units and the businesses to promote sustainable and equitable development.

Happy World Environment Day 2012 and Happy 2nd Anniversary PNEJ!

CMFR's call to oppose Angara and Rep. Velasco's bills

OPPOSE HB 5835 AND SB 2965

Certain members of the 15th Congress apparently have no knowledge of, or have chosen to ignore, the fact that freedom of information is a human right, and that

It would not matter were these individuals not charged with the task of legislation.  The fact that they are, together with their antipathy to freedom of information and a free press, constitutes a mix lethal for free expression and freedom of information in the Philippines.
Two bills, one in the initial stages of the legislative process, and the other on the brink of approval by both houses of Congress, are illustrative.

In the House of Representatives, Congressman Lord Allan Jay Velasco of Marinduque has filed several bills, including House Bill (HB) 5835 which would increase the fine for each count of libel. 

Velasco notes that the Revised Penal Code provisions on libel are 82 years old and are outmoded. Indeed they are—but in the sense that the penalties they mandate, including imprisonment, are antithetical not only to press freedom but also to the democratic need of citizens for information on matters of public interest. Rather than increase the penalties for libel, an enterprise that can only be described as retrogressive, Velasco’s energies are better spent decriminalizing it.

Senate Bill (SB) 2965, the reconciled version of three House and Senate bills now entitled  “The Data Privacy Act”, would create a National Privacy Commission with the power to monitor the processing of personal information in all forms and media of communication, to halt the process in the name of privacy and national security, and to penalize violators, including private entities, government officials and agencies  as well as the media, for obtaining, or causing the release or publication of,  “personal information”.

Section 31 mandates that “The penalty of imprisonment ranging from two (2) years and four (4) months to five (5) years and a fine not less than Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php 500,000.00) but not more than Two Million Pesos (Php 2,000,000,000.00) shall be imposed in case of a breach of confidentiality where such breach has resulted in the information being published or reported by media. In this case, the responsible reporter, writer, president, publisher, manager and editor-in-chief shall be liable under this Act.”

SB 2965 defines  “personal information”  as “any information whether recorded in a material form or not, from which the identity of an individual is apparent or can be reasonably and ascertained by the entity holding the information, or when put together with other information would identify an individual.”  The definition would therefore include information vital to the imperatives of transparency and accountability in both government and those sectors of the private sector whose work has a bearing on public interest. SB 2965 is also contrary to the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that has been submitted to the Congressional Committees on Public Information.

Not only media and journalists’ organizations must oppose SB 2965 and HB 5835. Human rights  organizations and accountability and transparency watch groups—every organization concerned with freedom of information, government accountability and with the right not only to disseminate but also to receive information-- must unite in preventing these and similar bills from passing the legislative mill, which, in contrast to the speed with which it has processed SB 2965, has failed to act on the FOI bill despite the painstaking efforts of its stakeholders, which include no less than the free press, free expression groups, and the entire Philippine citizenry.

PPI oppose Angara's proposed Data Privacy Act

The Philippine Press Institute objects to the proposed

because it violates the constitutional freedoms of expression and the press.
We are not, however, closing our minds to any discussions –  with your sector and any other that may want to involve itself in them  – about matters involving those freedoms, especially where they become a potential subject of any legislation.