Freedom of the
Press belongs to the people
A statement of unity on the
closure of ABS-CBN by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All (FMFA)
May 6, 2020
As the country battles a
pandemic, the government has found it more important to press on its
assault on media freedom through the cease and desist order issued
by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against
broadcast network ABS-CBN.
The timing borders on the
bizarre when on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Solicitor General
Jose Calida warned of graft charges against the NTC if it allowed
the network to operate beyond May 4, the date its 25-year franchise
It is doubly despicable
that it happens as our people battle a deadly pandemic, which they
will need timely and accurate information to defeat. To take away a
network with a reach so broad there are areas where it is the only
source of information could prove fatal during this plague.
While Congress professed
surprise and reacted with anger at what it saw as the NTC's
disregard for its sovereign authority to decide on franchises, it
cannot wash its hands of this travesty. Lawmakers themselves had the
whole time to deliberate on the bills to renew ABS-CBN's franchise
but did not.
But let us not forget
where the ultimate responsibility for the silencing of ABS-CBN lies:
President Rodrigo Duterte. Irked by the network's failure – since
explained – to air his ads during the 2016 presidential campaign, he
personally and repeatedly vowed in public to block the renewal of
And now ABS-CBN has gone
dark. The message is clear: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets.
It is just as clear that
Duterte's real intent is to silence the critical media and
intimidate everyone else into submission. And this we should not and
As a people, we must
understand and recognize that this goes beyond ABS-CBN. Government's
decision to close a major media network places the narrow personal
and political interests of those in power over the welfare of the
people. The fourth estate under attack, the silencing of dissent,
are symptoms of a virus that has found its way inside a weak system
Whatever complaints have
been lodged against the network, there are agencies in which these
should be threshed out. If anything needs to be corrected, these can
and should be undertaken with a greater respect and without
violation of the fundamental protection provided in the Constitution
for freedom of expression and press freedom.
While we expect the matter
to be brought before the judiciary and hope for a just resolution,
we must go beyond clearly damaged institutions to defend our rights
In this period of crisis,
when there is worsening poverty and hunger, we must all work
together, set aside differences, ease the lines of communication and
resist, condemn and speak out against government's attempt to
trample on our freedoms. Our people's lives could well depend on
this. For sure, democracy does.
We, the community of
independent Filipino journalists, call on all Filipinos who cherish
democracy and liberty to stand with us. This is our common cause.
Freedom of the press does
not belong to us, the media, but to you, the people. It is a freedom
we wield in the service of the people's right to know and to help
ensure that you enjoy your right to free expression.
We triumphed once over a
tyrant who thought he could silence our collective voices for long.
We can do so again.
IPAGTANGGOL ANG MALAYANG PAMAMAHAYAG!
IPAGTANGGOL ANG MALAYANG PAGPAPAHAYAG!
MABUHAY ANG PILIPINO!