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Court extends block on new cybercrime law

Suspension "until further orders" hailed as victory for freedom

Court extends block on new cybercrime law
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines have welcomed the suspension but say vigilance is still in order (Image: CEGP website) reporter, Manila

February 5, 2013

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an indefinite suspension on the implementation of a controversial cybercrime law amid concerns that the new legislation poses a threat to free speech.

A day before a four-month temporary restraining order on the new law was due to expire, the Supreme Court decision to delay the new legislation would be extended “until further orders from the court,” spokesman Gleo Guerra said in a text message to news agencies.

President Benigno Aquino signed off on the Cybercrime Prevention Law in September but the subsequent temporary restraining order and new Supreme Court decision on Tuesday means that it is yet to be implemented.

Youth group Kabataan and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) welcomed the extension of the temporary restraining order as "a victory for freedom lovers."

"This is a victory for the people who protested against the law online and offline. This is a product of collective effort for freedom of expression,” said Pauline Gidget Estella, national president of CEGP, an alliance of student publications in the Philippines.

The aim of opponents to the law remains a permanent restraining order, she added. "What else does the government need to realize that this is a badly crafted law and can suppress free speech?"

Opponents have complained that the new legislation would apply what is considered an out-of-date libel law to the internet, thereby leaving journalists and bloggers legally vulnerable.

The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, an organization which represents the country's 1,252 schools, has been among the leading voices calling on the government to amend the law to remove provisions on libel, as well as other sections which restrict access to data.

The Supreme Court finished hearing arguments from opponents of the law last week and is later expected to issue a decision on whether it runs counter to the Constitution.

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