Poe: 'Bloggers are not above libel laws'

MANILA, Philippines – Bloggers, like mainstream journalists, are also subject to Philippine laws on libel, Senator Grace Poe said on Tuesday, January 30.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, said this in her opening statement at the second hearing on fake news which sought to find ways to stop the spread of fake news and to determine whether legislation would be the proper remedy. (LIVE: Senate hearing on fake news online)

"In our last hearing, some bloggers claimed that their posts were personal expressions or mere opinions and are therefore not subject to a journalist's code of ethics. In my view, bloggers are not above libel laws," the senator said.

"If a blogger passes on information that he claims are facts, but which later turn out to be false, we should be able to hold him accountable," she added.

The senator said that while she supports an individual's right to freedom of expression, "once that writer defames the subject of his article, that writer must be held liable in accordance with our laws."

"You cannot just attack a person without basis, and then hide behind the skirt of free expression. I think one must have the courage to stand by what he has written and posted publicly," she added.

During the hearing, Poe took a swipe at Cocoy Dayao, the person supposedly behind the "Silent No More" blog, for not attending the hearing.

"You can dish it out but you can't take it," she said, addressing Dayao.

Poe said among the objectives of the second hearing was to determine the "extent of responsibility and accountability of bloggers and journalists in spreading misinformation."

She added that the probe would also look into the effect of online platforms like Facebook "in shaping public opinion and facilitating the spread of misinformation; and the accountability of government for the use or misuse of resources in spreading disinformation or suppressing the truth."

The resource persons at the Tuesday hearing included government communications officials led by Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, social media personalities, bloggers, and representatives from media groups and mainstream media including Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa. – Rappler.com