MANILA - Amnesty International on Tuesday said the cease and desist order slapped by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on media network ABS-CBN Corp. is an "outrageous attack on media freedom."
In a statement, Amnesty International Philippines section director Butch Olano said the government must act immediately on the issue to keep ABS-CBN on air.
"Ordering ABS-CBN to stop its operations is an outrageous attack on media freedom. It is especially reckless as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Filipino people need accurate information from independent sources. The government must act immediately to keep ABS-CBN on air and cease all attempts to curtail media freedom," Olano said.
"This latest move against ABS-CBN occurs after repeated attacks in the past against the network by President Duterte himself.
"It is yet another attack on freedom of expression in recent weeks, following the authorities’ legal threats against people who criticized the government’s response to the pandemic.
"This is a dark day for media freedom in the Philippines, reminiscent of martial law when the dictatorship seized control over news agencies.
The lessons of history should be a reminder to the government not to go down this path, press freedom must be upheld and this attack on ABS-CBN should be vigorously opposed by all who care about free speech."
The NTC has ordered ABS-CBN to “cease and desist” from broadcasting on television and radio, one day after the company’s 25-year operating franchise expired.
In a cease-and-desist order dated May 5, the agency said the network must stop its broadcast operations "due to the expiration of its congressional franchise" on Monday, May 4.
The NTC said the network should "stop operating its various TV and radio broadcasting stations nationwide 'absent a valid Congressional Franchise as required by law'."
It issued the order after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the agency against issuing a temporary permit to operate for ABS-CBN.
Calida has asked the Supreme Court to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise for its alleged Constitutional violations, but the high court has yet tot rule on the matter.