Attacks on media continue even a year after ABS-CBN shutdown – Zarate
MANILA, Philippines — The attacks against media personalities and institutions have not stopped even a year after ABS-CBN was taken off free television and radio, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said on Wednesday.
Wednesday, May 5, marked a year after the franchise network giant went off the air as ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Its franchise expired on May 4, 2020, and the House denied its application for another franchise.
“(The) shutdown a year ago today of the country’s largest network by undemocratic forces may have sent some chilling effect and dented the freedom of the press but it failed to silence a nation seeking accountability amid this pandemic aggravated crisis,” Zarate said.
“The shutdown of the ABS-CBN Kapamilya Network was certainly a part of the present administration’s attempts to muzzle a critical press and its perceived enemies,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly denied any involvement in the move.
“Yes, it sent a chilling effect and dampened the fighting spirit of some. Yet, despite these attacks, we now witness how that faint critical voices that they expected to fade or vanish are now getting louder once again, seeking transparency and accountability,” he added.
“The fight for press freedom continues,” Zarate went on. ‘Even a year after the ABS-CBN shutdown, media in the Philippines is still under attack under the Duterte administration by anti-democratic forces at its employ or encouragement. These attacks are highly abhorrent and condemnable.”
“It is clear that Malacañang does not want to hear the truth as they happen; they do not want criticisms of their failures as all they want to hear is their own fake news. This is why the media, activists, the opposition and even ordinary citizens are being silenced by Malacanang and the NTF-ELCAC,” he claimed.
NTF-ELCAC stands for National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Critics of the administration believe that Duterte’s spat with ABS-CBN for its allegedly biased coverage of the President during the 2016 elections and even after that was the reason for the network being taken off the air.
With ABS-CBN struggling to get a new franchise, hearings were held by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, where it was decided that the network would be given provisional authority to operate even past its franchise duration.
However, the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order against the network, saying that ordinary circumstances do not apply as ABS-CBN is facing several issues.
In an ABS-CBN interview on the day of the shutdown, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios admitted that the order stemmed from questions on the validity of its franchise.
Months earlier, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN to question the validity of its franchise.