By Joaquin Gonzales IV
Several student publications and formations condemned the decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to not give a provisional authority (PA) to broadcast, leading to the shutdown of ABS-CBN Corporation’s television and radio stations.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) said that Duterte’s “threats and intimidation” against ABS-CBN “unmask a conniving plot against the network.”
“The regime’s shameless attack to press freedom and persecution of media practitioners who are staunch critics of [the] Duterte regime and his gross negligence in handling the coronavirus pandemic are concrete manifestations of his looming dictatorship. Duterte’s cease and desist order is a dictator’s clear weapon to repress the freedom of the press,” said CEGP National President Daryl Angelo Baybado.
Meanwhile, Juan Sebastian Evangelista, spokesperson of the CEGP Southern Tagalog said that it manifests Duterte’s desire to silence his critics and manipulate the narrative.
“The administration’s brazen attacks against ABS-CBN goes beyond mere franchise issues. However, time and time again, journalists and the people stand up for the truth, more so, when our rights and democracy is in peril. It is exactly this condition that laid the foundations for the ‘mosquito press’ of the martial law era.” Evangelista added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) views the order of the National Telecommunications Communications (NTC) as a slap to Congress to renew legislative franchises. The said move will also cut out sources of information to the public amid the pandemic.
“No matter that the closure of a major media network would deprive our people of a major source of information at a time when information could spell life and death as we battle the pandemic,” NUJP said.
Shutdown of ABS-CBN
The legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation expired on May 4. Only a day later, the NTC released a Cease and Desist Order, directing ABS-CBN to stop operating its television and radio broadcasting stations nationwide.
Congress has barely touched on ABS-CBN’s bid for a fresh franchise, and the 11 bills seeking the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN remain pending before the House committee on legislative franchises
It is known that President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly slammed ABS-CBN in the past, accusing the network of refusing to air his 2016 presidential campaign commercials even if they have been already paid for. In 2018, he threatened to put the network out of business. He even told the Lopez family to just sell the company to a new owner to boost its chances of staying in business.
The importance of free press in crucial times
Student formations slammed the administration for silencing media in a time where the availability of reliable sources of information is now crucial.
“Ang pagkakaroon ng malayang pamamahayag ay napaka-importante ngayong nasa ilalim ng Extensive Community Quarantine ang kalakhan ng bansa. Kailangan natin ang mga alagad ng media sa pagpapalaganap at pagbabalita ng mga tamang impormasyon at mga pangyayari sa buong bansa. Dapat unahin ng administrasyon ang pagsugpo ng mga isyung panlipunan, at hindi pagpapatahimik sa ating mga mamamahayag”, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) University Student Council said.
The UPLB College of Development Communication Student Council (UPLB CDCSC) echoed the sentiment, stating that the free press is the right of every citizen of a democratic country, and that it is needed.
“Mas pinapaigting ang importansya nito ngayon sa kalagitnaan ng administrasyong Duterte na mismong pasimuno ng misimpormasyon at ng mga pag-atake sa midya na nagpapahayag ng katotohanan,” the UPLB CDCSC added.
(Its importance is heightened now in the Duterte administration, which is at the forefront of the misinformation and media attacks that proclaim the truth.)
Representative Sarah Elago of the Kabataan Partylist questions the shutdown of ABS-CBN, one of the top sources of information during the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that free and independent media is needed now more than ever.
Livelihood at stake
The closure of ABS-CBN may put more than 11,000 jobs at stake. The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said that by ordering ABS-CBN to cease and desist, the NTC also compromises the livelihood of the media franchise’s workers during a significantly volatile period for the country’s economy.
Youth alliance Youth Resist stated that the cease and desist order shows how the administration disregards the 11,000 workers who will lose their jobs in the middle of the pandemic, just to make sure that their image will not be disdained.
“The government must realize that the corporation is not comprised only by its owners, but also of working class citizens who are putting at risk their lives in order to deliver information during a massive health crisis.” they explained. [P]
Photo credits to AP Photo/Bullit Marquez