Media organizations condemn NTC order to shut down ABS-CBN

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 5) – Media organizations in the country denounced on Tuesday the order of the National Telecommunications Commission to shut down the television and radio stations of media giant ABS-CBN Corporation.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas said the NTC’s order is unfair for the network, its employees, and the millions of viewers served by ABS-CBN through its television and radio programs.

KBP also recognized the valuable contribution of ABS-CBN in information dissemination to the public, especially during the COVID-19 crisis in the country.

“ABS-CBN is performing a valuable service to the public in the midst of a public service emergency not only by providing important news and information to keep the public safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus but also in giving the public much relief from the mental and emotional pressures of quarantine by continuing to broadcast its entertainment programs,” the organization said in a statement.

KBP adds, “without warning, both the public and the government are deprived of that service.”

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines also supported the fact that ABS-CBN is a vital source of information for the public especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the Philippines reels from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, ABS-CBN’s critical eye is needed now more than ever to help inform the public,” said FOCAP in a statement.

FOCAP also emphasized the NTC’s order threatens press freedom in the country.

“The move is clearly a case of political harassment against a pillar of Philippine democracy that employs,” the group added.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expressed that today’s shutdown of ABS-CBN clearly stems from President Rodrigo Duterte’s personal vendetta against the network.

“It sends a clear message: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets. And it is clear, with this brazen move to shut down ABS-CBN, that he intends to silence the critical media and intimidate everyone else into submission,” said NUJP in a statement.

The Defense Press Corps of the Philippines criticized the ABS-CBN shutdown by NTC as an assault on the country’s freedom of the press and democracy.

“It serves only a dictatorship seeking to silence the truth,” the group said in a statement.

The Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines stressed the importance of free press in a democratic country.

“A free press is a cornerstone of a dynamic democracy. Even the slightest trace of political persecution undermines the dynamism that makes democracy the most desirable form of governance for Filipinos,” they told.

The five leading media organizations in the country called the Filipino people to stand with ABS-CBN and appealed to lawmakers to renew the franchise of the Lopez family-owned network.

“We urge the government to adopt the equitable remedy, consistent with precedence practiced by NTC with the broadcast industry and adopted by both houses of Congress, of considering the permits and authorizations granted to ABS-CBN extended while evaluation of the application for extension of ABS-CBN's franchise is pending,” said KBP.

“We urge Congress to independently act on pending measures seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise. Our lawmakers must tackle these measures as soon as possible, and uphold the freedom of the press that the 1987 Constitution guarantees,” told FOCAP.

“We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish democracy and liberty to stand together and resist this government’s brazen assault on freedom of the press and of expression,” added NUJP.

“Shutting down ABS-CBN and leaving 11,000 workers unemployed at a period of crisis serves no one,” the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines said.

“EJAP calls on NTC to withdraw its cease and desist order and issue ABS-CBN a provisional operating license as it has committed to do earlier.”

The NTC ordered ABS-CBN this afternoon to stop its operations due to the expiration of its legislative franchise, walking back from its promise to legislators last March to issue a provisional permit pending its renewal.

READ: ABS-CBN goes off air following NTC order

ABS-CBN signed off at 7:52 p.m. today, covering its five AM stations, including DZMM, 18 FM stations and 42 TV stations, including Channels 2 and 23.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been publicly ranting against ABS-CBN since assuming office, saying the network refused to carry his campaign commercials even if they have been already paid for.

In 2018, Duterte said he will block the renewal of the network's franchise. Last year, he told the Lopez family to just sell the company to a new owner to boost its chances of staying in business.

However, the President accepted the apology offered by ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak during a Senate hearing for airing an anti-Duterte ad during the 2016 campaign which was paid for by the opposition.