MANILA — There is hope even as freedoms are in danger, ABS-CBN’s news chief told communication graduates of the University of the Philippines on Sunday, saying the network continues to find ways to deliver news even after being shut down by government.
"Even if our freedoms are in peril and our world seems headed toward destruction, there is always hope," Ma. Regina “Ging” Reyes said in her commencement speech at the UP College of Mass Communication's virtual graduation.
Herself an alumna of the UP-CMC, Reyes noted how press freedom came "under attack as soon as populist leaders began their assault on truth."
"The attacks against press freedom and the demonization of the news media culminated with the shutdown of the country’s leading network, ABS-CBN," she said.
ABS-CBN, where Reyes has led the News Division in the last 10 years, was forced off the air last May 5, a day after the lapse of its franchise. The National Telecommunications Commission ordered the network to stop broadcasting on free TV and radio despite a previous commitment to allow operations pending deliberations in Congress on franchise renewal measures.
A House of Representatives committee eventually voted to deny the network’s bid for a fresh 25-year franchise, effectively fulfilling President Duterte’s vow to “see to it that you’re out" despite relevant government agencies clearing it of any irregularities and delinquencies.
Reyes said the decision to deny ABS-CBN a new franchise pushed the network's news arm to find other ways to deliver reports to millions in remote areas, where only ABS-CBN’s signal was available.
"Matapos patayin ng komite ng Kongreso ang aming prangkisa, kailangan naming maghanap ng ibang paraan para ituloy ang aming serbisyo at maabot ang mga manonood ng ABS-CBN," she said.
(After a congressional committee killed our franchise, we needed to find other ways so we could continue our service and reach ABS-CBN's audience.)
"Sabi nga nila [They say], necessity drives innovation. So that’s what we’re aiming for, in order to stay connected with millions of viewers who are now deprived of a crucial source of information," she added.
Reyes said "not a few media owners have acknowledged that news is the heart and soul of any great media company... because while it is not always a profitable business, it is the service that has a big impact on the world."
She told the graduates that journalism is "an imperfect profession" as she reflected on her experience with lawmakers who scrutinized ABS-CBN's news reporting during the franchise hearings.
"As we hold power to account, we should remember that we too are accountable. We must acknowledge our flaws and learn from them," she said.
"Many would say that my trip to Congress last month was a lesson on media accountability. And humility. I couldn’t agree more. I owned up to mistakes we committed in the past. I explained how errors were rectified and those responsible for them, disciplined. I disclosed our internal protocols for dealing with complaints and ethical violations," she recounted.
But one should "not apologize for the journalism principles on which you stand."
"When politicians try to tell you how to do your job - how headlines should be written, how long you should wait till they give their side, how bad news hurts their image - you do not back down," she said.
"You do not abandon the constitutional right that allows you the freedom to say and do something about what’s wrong in the world," she said.
"You, the class of 2020 are going through an unprecedented time in our history. You have accomplished much by surviving and learning from these last several years," she told the graduates.
"However you decide to use your creative talent, your journalistic zeal or your sense of mission, remember that these are your gifts and they are meant to be used in the service of humanity."
ABS-CBN was first shut down in 1972 when dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial rule. It returned to broadcast in 1986 after the People Power Revolution restored the country's democracy.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.