Editor's note: We are publishing in full statements issued by various groups and institutions in support of ABS-CBN Corp., which went off the air on May 5, 2020 following a cease and desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission. The company's franchise expired on May 4, while bills for its franchise renewal, some filed since 2016, continued to languish in Congress.
May 5 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a Cease and Desist Order against media network ABS-CBN citing the expiration of its legislative franchise on May 4, 2020.
NTC’s action resulted to the network airing its last broadcast on the night of May 5 amidst the current health crisis wherein access to free information is vital to one’s safety. This is clearly a suppression of press freedom and another attempt of the administration to curtail the public's right to information.
Duterte has frequently expressed his thoughts about the media through tirades that have targeted other media companies such as Rappler and Inquirer. The administration also perpetuated the rise of reported arrests and killings of community journalists.
ABS-CBN had already filed 11 applications in Congress for the renewal of its franchise since 2014. The first two bills on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal did not get past the committee level.
Moreover, in December 2019, Chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, declared that they would not tackle ABS-CBN's franchise renewal bills until the end of that year.
Duterte himself vowed to prevent ABS-CBN from getting their renewal. House Speaker Rep. Alan Cayetano, a crony of Duterte, also played a role in delaying the renewal when he said that it can be tackled in the early months of 2020.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines - Metro Manila, together with various student councils in the region, firmly condemns this blatant act to stifle the media and to silence dissent just because of Duterte's personal agenda to block ABS-CBN from airing. Aside from this suppression, the inaction of congress with the franchise renewal of ABS CBN puts the livelihood of the network's 11,000+ employees at risk amidst the pandemic. The administration is hellbent on removing the network on air instead of focusing on pressing issues that the country is facing right now.
Now more than ever, it is imperative to assert our rights and demand accountability from the Duterte administration as it diminishes our right to information and continues to suppress our right to freedom of expression by silencing, arresting and killing journalists.
Defend Press Freedom!