DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Journalists across the country slammed the shutdown of the country’s leading broadcast network ABS-CBN, as its franchise expired on May 4.
The network was ordered shut by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the NTC from issuing a provisional authority to operate pending its franchise renewal.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed the order as a “brazen assault on freedom of the press and of expression.”
The group, which launched an online candle lighting protest on Tuesday night, said the closure of ABS-CBN stemmed not by legalities, but from President Rodrigo Duterte’s “personal vendetta” against the network over the airing of an electoral ad opposing his presidential campaign.
“It sends a clear message: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets. And it is clear, with this brazen move to shut down ABS-CBN, that he intends to silence the critical media and intimidate everyone else into submission,” NUJP said in their statement.
The ABS-CBN network’s application for its franchise renewal had been sitting in the administration-loyal House of Representatives for the past couple of years.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) also denounced the shutdown of ABS-CBN as part of the Duterte’s moves toward “dictatorship”.
“While arresting thousands of Filipinos under military lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, Duterte and his humbug minions draconianly proved that they want to fully silence the press and steal thousands of livelihoods of more than 11,000 workers without even providing enough financial and medical aid amid COVID-19,” said CEGP national president Daryl Angelo Baybado.
“The regime’s shameless attack to press freedom and persecution of media practitioners who are staunch critics of Duterte regime and his gross negligence in handling the coronavirus pandemic are concrete manifestations of his looming dictatorship,” Baybado added.
Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago questioned the timing of the closure.
“Why order the shutdown of one of the people’s top sources of info amid the public health crisis? We need free and independent media now more than ever. This is not about ABS-CBN, but this is about defending people’s right to information. People have lost jobs and income because of the crisis, and now comes this issue,” she said.
Despite the shutdown, other ABS-CBN outfits, such as their online website, cable news channel, and social media platforms will continue to operate as it is not covered by NTC.
The NUJP said the closure would press them to continue fighting against the attacks on press freedom.
“But just as the independent press survived and triumphed with the people over the Marcos dictatorship, we are certain that we shall do so again, that this regime that has run roughshod over our laws and disregarded our basic rights and liberties will not succeed,” NUJP said.(davaotoday.com)