CHR addresses ‘chilling effect’ on media after ABS-CBN shutdown

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) – The Commission on Human Rights denounced the order from the National Telecommunications Commission to shut down broadcast operations of media giant ABS-CBN Corporation.

CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said that the NTC decision will have a negative impact on media and freedom of expression.

“The Commission on Human Rights is deeply concerned with the decision knowing how this move sends a chilling effect on free media and impacts negatively on freedom of expression,” said De Guia in a statement.

CHR also emphasized the importance of media in reporting the truth to the people and making officials accountable for good governance.

“The information that media delivers to us every day allows every citizen to make critical decisions on their lives and enables them to demand better services, especially from the government,” the commission said.

De Guia also cited that access to credible information is very crucial in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

“With the station off the air, we lose another voice that people rely on for critical information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones from the ill-effects of the virus,” she told.

The human rights body also lamented the unfortunate situation of the 11,000 workforce of the Lopez-owned broadcasting company, as they will struggle for a source of living aggravated by lockdowns and quarantines.

“It is ironic that days after we commemorated Labor Day on May 1, workers of ABS-CBN now face the uncertainty of having no means to support themselves, their families, and even fellow Filipinos in this dire time,” CHR added.

CHR appealed for vigilance in affording the equal protection of laws to ABS-CBN amid the shutdown of the company’s five AM stations, 18 FM stations and 42 TV stations.

The NTC ordered ABS-CBN yesterday to stop its operations due to the expiration of its legislative franchise on May 4, 2020. It walked back from its promise to legislators last March to issue a provisional permit pending the network's franchise renewal.

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 had 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.

Several media organizations denounced the move by NTC to cease and desist the operations of ABS-CBN.

READ: Media organizations condemn NTC order to shut down ABS-CBN