‘Resist attacks on media freedom,’ NUJP urges

Published May 6, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hanah Tabios

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is urging all Filipinos and independent media workers to stand together and resist the government’s “brazen attacks on freedom of expression.”

An employee of ABS-CBN works in the newsroom at the station headquarters in Manila on May 6, 2020.  (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
An employee of ABS-CBN works in the newsroom at the station headquarters in Manila on May 6, 2020.

This came after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) released an order against ABS-CBN broadcast network to stop its broadcast operations starting Tuesday, May 4 after the expiration of its 25-year congressional franchise.

At exactly, 7:50p.m., the network, with all its TV and radio stations across the country, went off the air after performing the sign-off procedure.

When the anchors of its primetime newscast TV Patrol bid goodbye to viewers, social media users could not hide their disappointment and even became nostalgic amid the sudden turn of events while the country is battling against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish democracy and liberty to stand together and resist this government’s brazen assault on freedom of the press and of expression,” NUJP said in a statement, citing that there would be “no dead air” despite the network shutdown.

The group also slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida for threatening the commissioners of the NTC with graft charges if they will give the broadcast giant a provisional permit to operate pending the renewal of its franchise in Congress.

NUJP said the move is a clear message from the President Duterte to silence media organizations that are critical of the administration.

“All this stems from President Rodrigo Duterte’s personal vendetta against the network, whose franchise renewal he pledged to block,” it added.

Several groups and other academic institutions across the country also condemned the move from NTC.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) said the order to shut down ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries is a clear threat to press freedom, especially at the time when the network’s crucial reporting about the pandemic remains vital to keep the public informed with factual information.

“As the Philippines reels from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, ABS-CBN’s critical eye is needed now more than ever to help inform the public,” FOCAP said in a statement.

The group of international media correspondents also urged lawmakers to independently act on pending measures seeking to renew the network’s franchise in order to uphold press freedom as guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.

The University of Santo Tomas, where its journalism program is one of the best regarded in the country, also lamented that the NTC’s order is a clear disservice to the Filipinos, especially when a reliable news source is key to saving lives at the height of the global health emergency.

Several media corps covering different offices in the government and even communication students from various universities also expressed support to the embattled network.

Final hours

ABS-CBN journalists who were often seen on-camera appeared emotional amid the closure.

Veteran broadcast journalist Jeff Canoy even shared some historic yet emotional scenes inside the network’s newsroom a few moments before its primetime newscast TV Patrol, ended its broadcast before the station went off the air.

“ABS-CBN News Chief Ging Reyes hasn’t produced a newscast in over a decade. But we’ve heard epic stories of her days as executive producer of The World Tonight. Here she is, back in the producer’s chair for TV Patrol’s final newscast. The final words from the newscast were from her,” Canoy said in a Facebook post.

Families of ABS-CBN workers and even those who were directly affected by the shutdown also shared some emotional messages with their loved ones after the announcement, such as:

“Kumusta anak? Wala na daw kayong trabaho?”

“Hindi ko alam ang isasagot sa nanay ko.”

Read more: NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop operations