MANILA - The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Sunday said Rep. Mike Defensor's comments on the broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN proves that the company's shutdown is an issue of press freedom.
This was after Defensor was quoted in some news reports suggesting that ABS-CBN, once it is allowed to go back on air, should do away with news and public affairs, and instead broadcast only non-political shows.
"Thank you, party-list Rep. Mike Defensor for confirming what practically everyone knows but which this government and its minions have vainly tried to deny, that the shutdown of ABS-CBN and the circus that has become of the House hearings into the network's franchise are, indeed, a press freedom issue," NUJP said in a statement.
NUJP said Defensor's suggestion would negate ABS-CBN's chances of returning on air, as it would be violating the Broadcast Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP).
During Congressional hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise, Defensor questioned the company's use of Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDRs) saying it violated the Constitution's ban on foreigners owning a stake in media companies.
Securities regulators and the Philippine Stock Exchange however have said that PDRs are legal.
Defensor also questioned ABS-CBN chairman Gabby Lopez's citizenship, but the Justice Department itself said Lopez was a Filipino by law and thus allowed to own shares in the media company.
"It becomes increasingly clear that putting the squeeze on ABS-CBN is aimed at emasculating the media by holding up the network as an example of the fate that could await other outfits that insist on being true to their watchdog role and maintaining their independence," NUJP said.
The group called on the company's leadership, as well as other news organizations, to "resist these efforts to force media into subservience."
"We call on our colleagues in the community of independent Filipino journalists to close ranks and defend the freedoms and rights that allow us to fulfill our mandate of serving the people's right to know," NUJP said.
The National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN to halt its broadcast operations on May 5 despite committing to Congress in March it would issue the company a provisional authority to operate while lawmakers deliberate on bills for the network's new franchise.
ABS-CBN promptly complied with the order, which it later challenged before the SC. The petition for a TRO against the cease-and-desist order has yet to be resolved.
news.abs-cbn.com is the general news website of ABS-CBN Corp.