MANILA—The forced closure of ABS-CBN’s broadcast operations was part of a pattern to silence media critical of government, two journalism professors and prominent press freedom advocates said Saturday.
Prof. Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, said the network shutdown was a form of censorship that sent a message to other press organizations.
“ ’Yung pagpaparusa dahil may ginawa kang hindi nila gusto, censorship. Ang pangalawang klaseng ng censorship, ’yung prior restraint. Ang ibig sabihin, ginawa mo ito sa ABS-CBN, ’yung ibang media organization mag-ingat kasi maiisip nila baka pwedeng gawin sa amin ito o worse kaya kami magdadahan-dahan kami,” Teodoro said.
(If you’re punished because they disagree with what you did, that’s censorship. A second kind of censorship is prior restraint, meaning other media organizations will now be more careful with what to report for fear that what happened to ABS-CBN could happen to them, too.)
Teodoro, in an interview on TeleRadyo on Saturday, said the attacks on media, including the closure of ABS-CBN, indicate a pattern to deliberately silence media.
“Violation ito ng constitutional protection ng press freedom. Ang nangyayari ngayon d’yan, parang sinasadyang patahimikin despite the Constitution,” he said.
(What’s happening now is government is deliberately silencing media despite the Constitution.)
He said he cannot blame other media outlets if they are too careful now in their reporting.
“ ’Pag hindi namin gusto ang inyong pagre-report, ’pag kayo ay pumupuna sa gobyerno, o nirereport ninyo ang kamalian paparusahan namin kayo. ’Yan ang tinatawag na prior restraint. Ang demonstration n’yan ’yung ginawa sa ABS-CBN na ang tawag dyan subsequent punishment,” he said.
(If we don’t like what you report, if you criticize government, if you report what’s wrong with government, we will punish you. That is what you call prior restraint. What they did to ABS-CBN was a demonstration and its called subsequent punishment.)
In the same interview, Prof. Danilo Arao said the shutdown of ABS-CBN not only left a big information gap in areas where other media outlets could not reach, especially during disasters, but its chilling effect was also felt by the lack of critical reportage, particularly in big news organizations.
“Nand’yan ’yung pag-aalala. Nand’yan ’yung takot na baka matulad doon sa sitwasyon ng ABS-CBN ’yung kanilang status sa kasalukuyan,” Arao said.
(There is worry, fear that they could end up like ABS-CBN.)
He said harassment and intimidation continue to this day.
“ ’Yung red tagging isang seryosong usapin ’yan kasi hindi lang ito usapin ng pagsira sa reputasyon, kung di pwede rin makulong ka and much worse pwedeng kitilin ka din,” Arao said.
(Red-tagging is a serious issue. Not only does it damage a person’s reputation, it could also lead to being arrested or worse death.)
He added that this should also be made as an important issue come elections next year.
“Kumbaga ’yung ABS-CBN parang sinampolan lang siya. Kaya lang ’yung ibang news organizations and journalists are also victims of harassment and intimidation,” he said.
(ABS-CBN was made an example of. However, other news organizations and journalists are also victims of harassment and intimidation.)
He also cited the experience of a private media corporation that was not spared from red tagging after an official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict insinuated that it had ties to an organization known as a communist front after it shared on its Twitter the group’s call for donations for typhoon victims.
“Meron daw cell ng komunista sa loob ng CNN Philippines. That’s how brazen this government has become. Let’s not also forget that ABS-CBN and some journalist of ABS-CBN have also been red-tagged in the past and even up to now,” he said.
ABS-CBN’s franchise expired on May 5, 2020. Exactly a year ago today, a House of Representatives panel denied ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh franchise. The denial of the franchise forced the network to let go of thousands of its employees.