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HRW calls for repeal of 'cybercrime' law
New legislation hands govt 'excessive and unchecked powers,' rights group claims
- ucanews.com reporter, Manila
- September 28, 2012
The New-York based rights group says the new law "drastically increases punishments for criminal libel and gives authorities excessive and unchecked powers" to shut down websites and monitor online information.
The "Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012," defines several new acts of â€ścybercrime,â€ť including â€ścybersex,â€ť online child pornography, illegal access to computer systems or hacking, online identity theft, and spamming.
A section on libel specifies that criminal libel, already detailed in the Philippines Revised Penal Code, will now apply to acts â€ścommitted through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.â€ť
The new law drastically increases the penalties for computer-related libel, with the minimum punishment raised ten-fold, from six months to six years. The maximum punishment is doubled from six to 12 years in prison.
HRW Asia director, Brad Adams, said the penalties and other restrictions are a serious threat to freedom of expression.
"It violates Filipinosâ€™ rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine governmentâ€™s obligations under international law," Adams said in a statement from New York.
Several cases have already been filed in the Supreme Court, including for the law to be declared unconstitutional because it violates guarantees for free expression contained in the charter and human rights treaties ratified by the government.
â€śThe cybercrime law needs to be repealed or replaced,â€ť said Adams. He said anybody using social networking sites or who publishes online is now at risk of a lengthy prison term should a reader file a libel charge.
HRW and media groupsÂ have long called for the government to scrap the existing criminal libel law.
Several journalists have been imprisoned for libel in recent years, blemishing the countryâ€™s press freedom record.
In the case of Davao City radio journalist Alexander Adonis, who was convicted in 2007 of libel and spent two years in prison, the United Nations Human Rights Council determined that the government violated Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with regard to the right to freedom of expression and opinion.
The committee called on the government to decriminalize libel.
Senator seeks prison ban for libelÂ