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Court blocks Manila cyberlaw

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MANILA: The Philippine Supreme Court Tuesday suspended a controversial cybercrime law, amid huge online protests over fears it would impose severe curbs on internet freedoms. 

The court declared in a brief written notice that the law would be suspended for four months while the tribunal studies the arguments for and against it."The court resolved... to issue a temporary restraining order, effective immediately and for a period of 120 days, enjoining the respondents from implementing and/or enforcing (the cybercrime act)," it added.Such an order stops Philippine laws from taking effect until further orders from the court, while making no immediate judgment on their legality.The court said it will hear the case on January 15 next year.Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the government will follow the court's order."The Supreme Court temporary restraining order is an exercise of the power of judicial review. We respect and will abide by it," de Lima told reporters."Our advocacy for a safe cyberspace and interdiction of organised crime will continue," she added.The 15-member Supreme Court held a meeting behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss petitions seeking to outlaw the cybercrime act.Riot police deployed outside the court as about 100 of its opponents as well as supporters staged rival but peaceful protests.The law, which went into force last week, seeks to stamp out non-controversial cybercrimes such as fraud, identity theft, spamming and child pornography.However one provision which metes out heavy jail terms for online libel, tougher than for defamation in the traditional media, has caused an uproar.Equally controversial is a provision that allows the government to shut down websites and monitor online activities, such as video conversations and instant messaging, without a court order.Human rights groups, media organisations and netizens have voiced their...

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