Sunday, February 05, 2006

Shield Law VI: Constitutional bases

The Shield Law draws support from several provisions of the constitution.
The Shield Law promotes the constitutional guarantees to freedom of the press. The constitution states that no law shall be passed abridging freedom of the press.
The press must be free to publish without fear of subsequently having to face the prospects of being judicially sanctioned.
Part of the freedom of the press is the maintainance of the free flow of information.
In the process of news-gathering, the press must have an assurance that their work products, or even those materials used must generally be insulated against the undue intrusions by the state through the use of subpoenas.
Also, the constitution under Section 7 of Artilce III states that the right of the people to information on matters of public concern should be recognized.
The press must not be prevented from performing its role as a bridge in the flow of information which are of public concern.
Also, among the policies of the state is the express recognition of the vital role of communication and information in nation building (Sec. 24 Article II).
It is also submitted that in criminal processes, the shield law protects an accused's basic constitutional right to a fair trial.
This is illustrated by several state shield laws in the Untied States, and even the pending bill for a federal shield law which mandates that it is only in extreme circumnstances, when vital matters are not available from any other source that resort to materials gathered by the press can be made.
Having said this, our own shield law may be inadequate. Thus, the Philippine shield law must be reformed so that clear guidelines can be established as to when the state can subpoena materials from the press in pursuit of fair criminal prosecution.
Without such guidelines, the constitutional right of the accused to a fair trail will not be protected.

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