World Broadcasting Unions calls for protection of media independence, freedom of expression amid pandemic

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 28 2020 10:33 PM

MANILA - The World Broadcasting Unions on Monday said media independence and freedom of expression should be guaranteed as countries across the globe continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

"Media independence is a cornerstone of informed, healthy democracies and central to the values of broadcasters, which also include accuracy, accountability, impartiality, the highest standards
of journalism, and the commitment to serve the interests of all audiences everywhere. These are crucial at the best of times," WBU said.

"During times of crisis, they are non-negotiable," said the group, which serves as coordinating body for broadcasting unions that represent broadcast networks worldwide.

The WBU stressed that the role of professional journalism is "critical to countering the spread of misinformation and disinformation" that have been surfacing in social media and other platforms, "which can risk lives," especially amid the global COVID-19 crisis.

"An independent media also serves the public interest through rigorous scrutiny and the holding to account. Any exceptional measures introduced by governments in the context of a public emergency must not, therefore, be used to undermine the ability of the media to freely report on those emergencies, whether they be pandemics or protest movements," the international organization said.

The WBU said that despite journalists' efforts worldwide to provide accurate and verified news content, they're "being targeted and undermined while trying to do just that."

"In recent documented cases, for example during the George Floyd protests in America, news reporters – including those representing Members of the WBU - have been subjected to unacceptable acts
of aggression and intimidation, impinging on their ability to operate freely and risking their personal safety," it said. 

"Nor should emergency measures be a pretext for restricting the sharing of news and information, vital to informing and protecting citizens, their families, and their communities during challenging
times."

Earlier, the WBU appealed to the Philippine government and lawmakers to renew ABS-CBN's franchise to "restore the free flow of information to Filipinos", saying that the Congress' decision to reject the network's bid for a fresh license "puts at risk the employment of more than 11,000 workers and has drawn accusations of an attack against press freedom."

"The freedom of the media to report unhindered on unfolding events – and the rights of citizens to have access to trusted information for deciphering them – is fundamental to free speech and society," it said.

"It must not be compromised in any circumstances."

Experts have said ABS-CBN's franchise denial is another "chilling effect" on the country's press freedom, which has deteriorated since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power since 2016.

Duterte himself threatened the network's shutdown last December, before the Palace eventually claimed "neutrality" during the Congress' hearings on the franchise application.

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