Anonymous, off-the-record, not authorized to talk and no attribution are just some of the ways to hide the use of multiple sources in writing news.
In journalism, a source is a “person, publication, or other record or document that gives timely information.” Outside journalism, sources are sometimes known as "news sources". Examples of sources include “official records, publications or broadcasts, officials in government or business, organizations or corporations, witnesses of crime, accidents or other events, and people involved with or affected by a news event or issue.”
In the Philippines only publishers, editors and reporters of any publication is exempt from revealing the source of published news or information. Republic Act No. 53 series of 1946 was authored by the late Senator Vicente Yap Sotto. Section 1 of the law states, “the publisher, editor or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical in general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any new-report or information appearing on said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter, unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.”
The Sotto law protects print media but is silent on broadcast and social media. Consequently, broadcasters are not covered by the law and hence, not protected. Interestingly, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas is not even aware of this unique distinction under the law. If broadcast media, referring to free and cable TV as well as radio cannot do blind items or “istoryang bubwit”, the same holds through with social media.
Conversely, broadcasters and social media writers and bloggers can be compelled to reveal their sources by operation of law. Owners of TV stations, both free and cable, can be compelled to reveal who placed a negative ad against a candidate in an election. They cannot invoke RA No. 53. The same is true with a salacious post in social media or some reeking with malice or even false news or post truths.
Interestingly, a Sotto is amending the Sotto Law. Senator Vicente C. Sotto III is the grandchild of Senator Vicente Yap Sotto. He filed Senate Bill No. 6 on June 30, 2016, amending RA No. 53. Strangely, RA No. 53 controlling version then was also docketed as Senate Bill No. 6.
The amendment filed by Sen. Tito Sotto includes “station manager, producer and news director” as well as “broadcast or electronic mass media, including but not limited to” what was provided under RA No. 53 and to include, “radio, television, cable, internet site and other electronic media outlet.”
There should be equal protection of the law. For every day of delay, the more broadcasters and online journalist and bloggers are compromised. On the other hand, some quarters are saying, without the coverage of the law, the more they will be careful with their utterances and writings online. Still, freedom of press is primordial in a democracy.
SN 6 should be an urgent measure. It should be certified by the president as an administration measure despite the lively exchanges he has been having with the Fourth Estate.