MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called independent Filipino journalists and the public to defend press freedom amidst President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks hurled against broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
This came after Duterte told ABS-CBN that it would be better to “just sell” the network as he reiterated that it was unlikely that Congress would renew its franchise months before the expiration of the media titan’s franchise. (READ: Duterte to ABS-CBN: Better to sell the network)
In a statement released on Monday, December 30, the NUJP challenged the public “who cherish democracy to band together and protect the free arena of ideas that the closure or forced sale of ABS-CBN would severely weaken.”
“The alternative— the death of freedom of the press and of free expression— is too horrible to contemplate,” NUJP added.
During his term, Duterte has intimidated and harassed media networks through different ways.
Aside from his threats to ABS-CBN, he has also warned other media outlets, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, for their alleged biased reporting about him. In 2018, Rappler reporter Pia Ranada was banned from entering Malacañang Palace as well as from covering other presidential events after almost two years of constant coverage.
For NUJP, the latest rant against ABS-CBN “bears all the signs of a shakedown and raises questions over his real intentions for seeking to block the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise.”
In his speech before the earthquake victims of M’lang town in Cotabato on Monday, Duterte also told ABS-CBN, “Mag-renew kayo, ewan ko lang kung may mangyari diyan (You try to renew, let’s see if anything happens).”
NUJP added that these words looked “marching orders” in Congress, led by Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s defeated running mate and now the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Cayetano has admitted having “personal objections” to renewing the franchise in a clear conflict of interest.
Because of Duterte’s statements, NUJP said this leaves the network owners, the Lopez family, with a stark choice between selling or losing everything.
“But sell it to whom and for whose benefit?” the group asked.
This is not the first time that the President had been slamming the network. He did so at the start of his presidency as the network supposedly did not air his political ads during the 2016 campaign.
“The fact is Duterte has already shown a propensity for coercion, as he did in 2017 when he publicly told ABS-CBN to support his federalism drive and he would agree to settle his difference with the network,” NUJP cited.
He also slammed Inquirer on Monday, accusing it of being a “mouthpiece” of oligarchs. He also threatened the Ayala family and businessman Manny Pangilinan for alleged corruption in their water distribution operations in Metro Manila, which both have denied. – Rappler.com