Sotto law upholds press freedom–Palace

Senate President Vicente Sotto III authored Republic Act 11458 that also exempts journalists from broadcast, and news agencies from revealing the source of published news or information obtained in confidence. (SOTP)

The signing of the expanded so-called “Sotto law” is proof that President Rodrigo Duterte is in the forefront of upholding the freedom of the press in the country, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Republic Act (RA) 11458, signed by the Chief Executive on 30 August, further amends Section 1 of RA 53, as amended by RA No. 1477, expands the coverage of exemptions from revealing the source of published news or information obtained in confidence by including journalists from broadcast, and news agencies.

An official copy was released by the Palace Wednesday.

“Under this recently signed law, the coverage of exemptions now includes those from broadcast, electronic mass media, and wire service organizations. Previously, only the publisher, editor or reporters of a publication were covered by this shield law. We therefore consider the enactment of RA 11458 as auspicious and relevant in the present time, with the advent of technology,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“By signing this law, the President has reinforced jurisprudence on the matter which pronounces that, “[t]he sanctity of a newsman’s source of information is not only intended to protect a newsman but also the source of his information. When a person transmits confidential information to a newsman, he is exercising his freedom of speech on condition of anonymity,” he added.

Panelo also noted Mr. Duterte’s enactment of the law “as auspicious and relevant in the present time, with the advent of technology.”

Under the new charter, “any publisher, owner, or duly recognized o accredited journalist, columnist, manager, media practitioner involved in the writing, editing, production and dissemination of news for mass circulation of any print, broadcast, wire service organization, or electronic mass media, including cable TV and its variants” may only be compelled to disclose sources of information if “the court or the House of Representatives or the Senate or any committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State.”

“While the law is silent on what constitutes a security of the State, we believe that we may be guided by pertinent case laws which use the clear and present danger rule to tackle the subject in relation to the constitutional concept of free press,” stated the Palace official.

“At any rate, we submit that there is no hard and fast rule as the obligation to interpret the law as against varying sets of facts always lies with our courts,” he added.

p: wjg