MANILA - The Philippine government's move to shut down broadcast network ABS-CBN is an attack against all citizens, a coalition of media-oriented organizations said Wednesday.
"We live in dangerous times. Government has marshalled its tremendous forces against news organizations and individual journalists who have dared to question and criticize the killings that marred the fight against illegal drugs, the shameful surrender of national sovereignty over our seas in the pivot to China, and the failure to provide for the welfare of the people in times of crisis," the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All (FMFA) said in a statement.
The coalition, composed of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and MindaNews, said democracy could not flourish without a free and autonomous press.
"The adversarial relationship between media and government has been part of our political system. The government exercises power, and power must be checked. Recognition of the press as the fourth pillar of democratic governance has assured that efforts on both sides hold the necessary balance," the FMFA added.
Exertion of state power over the autonomy of the press, the group said, had only been imposed during the Marcos years.
The coalition also slammed the President's hostility towards those who criticized him, which they said "has been a hallmark of his administration."
"FMFA advocates for a stronger public commitment to defend their right to a free press. Media freedom is not a sectoral concern but a larger social good, its vigor and strength benefit all... [it] empowers citizens with information and news so that they can decide on issues that affect their lives," the group added.
Several bills seeking an extension of ABS-CBN's franchise, which will expire on March 30, 2020, remain pending in Congress.
The government's top lawyer on Monday also filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court invalidating its current license. The network has provided 65 years of service in the news and entertainment industry.
The President had repeatedly said he would block the network's franchise renewal after the company allegedly failed to pay its taxes and refused to air some of his campaign advertisements in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Responding to the plea before the high court, ABS-CBN said it "did not violate" any law and continues to stay true to its mandate of being "in the service of the Filipino."