Following shutdown, artists rally behind ABS-CBN through protest art

Jene-Anne Pangue
From voicing out their support to creating images that showed the company colors of ABS-CBN, artists express solidarity with the media giant, its workers, and Filipino supporters

MANILA, Philippines – The colors red, blue, and green have never been so radiant as now.

As soon as media giant ABS-CBN went off air on Tuesday night, May 5, artists from the media and creative industry were quick to show their support. 

From voicing out their support to creating images that show the company colors of ABS-CBN, artists expressed solidarity with the media giant, its workers, and Filipino supporters whom it has served for decades. 

The shutdown order of the National Telecommunications Network (NTC) came a day after the expiration of the broadcast network’s congressional franchise, and just two days after the celebration of World Press Freedom Day. 

In a statement, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), an alliance of art and cultural workers, lambasted the move, saying it was meant to suppress the free press the same way the government has attempted to muzzle peasant communities and advocates. 

“Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are democratic rights. And the democratic majority – the Philippine peasantry – demands their protection. A vibrant press sharpens the sickle; expression bolsters the peasant struggle for #LandJusticePeace,” SAKA said. 

It criticized the government’s attempt to monopolize power, to silence media seen as President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunch critics, and to force-feed Filipinos with government propaganda and “fake news.”

“By shutting ABS-CBN down, the state exercises Duterte’s bid to monopolize the flow of knowledge through fake news factories like the Presidential Communications Group and its troll farms,” the group said. 

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) also questioned the timing of the move as the shutdown comes at a time when Filipinos need key information about the coronavirus crisis.

“At a time when we are all trying to help out with relief, livelihood, truth telling, and vigilance over COVID-19 responses, the order only contributes to economic displacement and curtailment of the right to information and expression,” CAP said. 

The group also pointed out how this malicious attack on press freedom also threatened the livelihood of media and creative industry workers. 

ABS-CBN employs 11,000 workers who stand to lose their jobs in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We condemn this abuse of power. Why is the NTC hell-bent on ensuring the closure of ABS-CBN at this time of pandemic, when the whole world has adjusted and extended many policies in the face of COVID-19 and implemented lockdowns in every country?” CAP continued. 

Meanwhile, CAP artist and designer Karl Castro said in a Facebook post that the shutdown order against a media giant sends a chilling effect that endangers the voice of smaller or more critical news organizations or groups. 

“Beyond ABS-CBN, online outlets and alternative media have faced various attacks…. Dissenters, activists, and other truth-tellers bear the brunt of disinformation, vilification, harassment, arrests, even cold-blooded murder. We must understand the ABS-CBN shutdown in this context of systemic attacks,” Castro stressed.

He also reposted on his social media account an image he remembered creating in 2010 for a Christmas activity in support of the ABS-CBN Internal Job Market Workers’ Union. He never thought that the same image will be relevant as the company deals with the shutdown.  

“We are free to debate on the merits of ABS-CBN’s practice, the worldview it offers, and its contributions to our landscape. However, we must do this in an atmosphere of freedom. Shutting down the network is tantamount to narrowing our democratic space,” Castro added.

He also said that ABS-CBN has become an important institution in Philippine history. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Inside the ABS-CBN newsroom during first post-Martial Law shutdown

Some other artists were inspired to share their work online to rally behind the media giant.

Philippine Collegian posted a sketch made by Kim Yutuc where Yutuc portrayed Duterte’s move to step on a media giant and silence it. 

ABS-CBN has been the subject of presidential ire, and Duterte has repeatedly warned the company that its franchise would not be renewed. 

“Walang pagkilala ang pamahalaan sa malaya at kritikal na pamamahayag. ‘Pagkat para sa kanila, higit na mahalaga ang pagpapatahimik kaysa sa pagsisiwalat ng katotohanan,” The Philippine Collegian wrote in the same post. 

(The government does not recognize free and critical reporting. Because for them, it’s more important to silence the press than reveal the truth.)

 

Designer and illustrator Mika Montaño also shared her artwork online emphasizing the bright colors of ABS-CBN with a fist punch thrown in the air to support the broadcast network. 

“Wala na ako masabi kundi malinaw na sa lahat: ang kalagayan ng mga Filipino ay hindi ang prioridad ng gobyerno (I can’t say anything more other than it’s now clear to all: the welfare of the Filipino people is not the priority of this government), she added. 

Graphic designer Raffy de Guzman created a GIF expressing grief over the media giant’s shutdown as the radiant company colors of ABS-CBN suddenly transitioned to black. 

 

CAP also continued to urge artists, creatives, and entertainment industry workers to speak out against this latest attack on freedom of expression and threat to economic rights. – Rappler.com

Jene-Anne Pangue

Jene-Anne Pangue is a community and civic engagement specialist of MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm. Her involvement with Rappler started when she became a mover in 2014 and an intern in 2015. Since then, she learned the importance of building communities of action for social good as she continues to work with movers and doers across the country.