President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a bill expanding the scope of a law shielding journalists from being compelled to reveal their news sources.

Under Republic Act (RA) 11458, lawmakers expanded the coverage of the Commonwealth-era shield law, also known as the “Sotto Law” after its author Sen. Vicente Sotto, to include broadcast, electronic mass media and wire service agencies.

The amended provision of the law states that: “Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws, any publisher, owner, or duly recognized or accredited journalist, writer, reporter, contributor, opinion writer, editor, columnist, manager, media practitioner involved in the writing, editing, production and dissemination of news for mass circulation, of any print, broadcast, wire service organization or electronic mass media, including cable TV and its variants, cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news item, report or information appearing or being reported or disseminated through said media, which was related in confidence to the above-mentioned media practitioners unless the court or the House of Representatives or the Senate or any committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State.”

Under the old law, only the publisher, editor or reporters of a publication were covered.

“RA 11458 essentially expands the coverage of those who are shielded from revealing their source of published news or information when the same was obtained in confidence. Under this recently signed law, the coverage of exemptions now includes those from broadcast, electronic mass media, and wire service organizations,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“We also note that RA 11458 maintained the clause that media practitioners may only be compelled to reveal their source of information when the court, the House of Representatives, the Senate, or any committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the ‘security of the State,'” he added.

Panelo said that “By signing this law, the President has reinforced jurisprudence on the matter which pronounces that, ‘[t]he sanctity of a newsman’s source of information is not only intended to protect a newsman but also the source of his information. When a person transmits confidential information to a newsman, he is exercising his freedom of speech on condition of anonymity.'”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, grandson of the shield law’s original author, welcome the signing of the bill

“The Philippine media will always thrive in the freedoms that our forefathers have sought and successfully won to ensure democracy in our country. Our Constitution and our laws ensure that the right of the public to fair, accurate and reliable information will never be trampled upon, and that constitutional privileges enjoyed by members of the media industry will always be recognized and respected,” he said. (