#BlackScreenBroadcast: Netizens hold online protest vs ABS-CBN shutdown

Sofia Virtudes
For two hours, there was only pitch darkness, silence – reminiscent of how ABS-CBN went off-air for the first time since the Marcos dictatorship

MANILA, Philippines – Imagine a world without free press.

On Wednesday evening, May 6, groups, organizations, and netizens joined an online protest by holding muted black screen livestreams.

The protest, led by creative agency This Side Up Manila, denounced the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, following the expiration of the media giant’s franchise.

Called the #BlackScreenBroadcast, the virtual protest aimed to show “what a world would look like without freedom of expression.”

Participants were instructed to set their profile picture to black and cover their phone or desktop camera with a tape. At 8 pm, participants went live with a black screen, with a description that read:

“As ABS-CBN shuts down, we go live in the dark.

Imagine what a world would look like without freedom of expression. A world without stories, without conversations, without the exchange of ideas, without the checking of truth.

Imagine not being able to imagine. When the powerful reign. When critics are silent. When the world goes dark.

So tonight, we go live in the dark.”

For two hours until 10 pm, there was only pitch darkness, silence – reminiscent of how the media giant on Tuesday night, May 5, went off-air for the first time since the Marcos dictatorship.

Groups and press freedom advocates joined the online protest, including Altermidya Network, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, DAKILA, Karapatan, UP Film Center, and Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines.

Rappler’s #BlackScreenBroadcast livestream alone gained over 127,000 views and over 400 shares as of writing.

The NTC’s decision to halt ABS-CBN’s broadcasting operations drew massive criticism from various groups and the general public, as the network had been many Filipino families’ source of news and information, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Media groups rallied behind the network and condemned the threats against press freedom, saying “an attack on one is an attack on all.” (READ: Press freedom takes a hit in PH during coronavirus pandemic)

Senators also slammed the NTC’s move, calling it a “grave abuse of discretion,” while disgruntled lawmakers from the lower chamber blamed Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the House leadership for the closure. – Rappler.com