Bacolod journalists, groups light candles for press freedom amid ABS-CBN franchise woes
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Local journalists, students, progressive groups, and a parish priest lighted candles and offered prayers at the Marker of the Fallen Journalists in the Bacolod City public plaza Friday night, February 21, as they joined calls to stop the move to shut down the broadcast network ABS-CBN.
The rally, dubbed as #BlackFridayProtest, was organized by the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to call on the government to uphold press freedom and to show solidarity to the embattled workers of the broadcast giant. (READ: NUJP submits 200,000 signatures to Congress for ABS-CBn franchise renewal)
Several employees of ABS-CBN Bacolod also joined the rally calling for their franchise renewal.
Clad in black shirts, the protesters held streamers bearing messages like “Defend Press Freedom,” “No to Media Crackdown,” “Resist,” “We will not be Silenced,” and “Don’t Gag the Press.”
Marchel Espina, NUJP-Bacolod chapter president, underscored the role of the media in a democracy. “We serve the people’s right to know, that is why are were fighting hard to defend press freedom. We want to protect their right to be informed,” she said.
She said the threat of the government to shut down ABS-CBN only shows that the administration will muster all its power to muzzle the press.
“This is grave abuse of authority,” Espina said.
“ABS-CBN is far from perfect, like all other media entities are, but we are all here to serve the public – those who don’t have a voice in the community, those who are hopeless, those who have nothing, and those who felt they were deprived by the services of the government,” she added.
Wennie Sancho, secretary-general of General Alliance of Workers Association, also stressed the massive economic dislocation if the franchise of ABS-CBN is not renewed by March 30, as more than 11,000 workers stand to lose their jobs.
Progressive groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros also slammed the government for muzzling the press and freedom of speech.
Felix Pasquin, parish priest of Our Lady of Candles Parish, said that he has included the fight for press freedom and franchise renewal of ABS-CBN in his prayers at his parish.
“So the people will be aware of this situation, which is not good...we want to unite in prayers to stop what the government is doing so freedom and democracy will thrive,” he said.
On February 14, hundreds of journalists, artists, and civic leaders wore red and took to the streets in Quezon City and Bacolod City to protest government efforts to shut down media giant ABS-CBN. (READ: 'Show of love for democracy': Groups hold Red Friday protest to support ABS-CBN)– Rappler.com