House probe of SMNI ‘not a press freedom issue,’ says UP prof
The scrutiny on Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) initiated by Congress has nothing to do with the issue of press freedom and is completely different from the situation of ABS-CBN Corp. when the Duterte administration “besmirched” the broadcast giant, a journalism professor said on Friday.
Danilo Arao, an associate journalism professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, explained that the matter concerning the embattled network was that it had already extended its Red-tagging to some of its programs.
The House committee on legislative franchises began its investigation of SMNI after the TV network reported that Speaker Martin Romualdez had allegedly incurred travel expenses amounting to P1.8 billion.
Arao also described as “laughable” the recent appeal by former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque to media practitioners to “stand” with SMNI, which is supposedly being threatened with franchise revocation by the lower house.
‘Penchant for Red-tagging’
“What SMNI is going through is hardly a press freedom issue,” Arao told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “For me, the most important and most pressing issue [here] is the penchant of SMNI for Red-tagging.”
He pointed out how Roque had done an about-face from his remarks when he was the spokesperson of former President Rodrigo Duterte, who had repeatedly threatened to pull the plug on ABS-CBN.
Back then, Roque had justified the House panel’s decision not to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN for another 25 years and even said to just “move on” from the matter. The revocation of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise prompted an immediate solidarity among media practitioners.
Arao explained there was a huge difference between the situations of SMNI and ABS-CBN.
During the early years of the Duterte administration, Arao said the former president himself had already declared that he would “see to it” that the broadcast network would soon be shut down, which happened in 2020 or at the height of the pandemic.
This stemmed from Duterte’s apparent beef with the broadcast giant after it allegedly failed to air a political ad of his when he was running for president during the 2016 elections, according to Arao.
“So, the [Duterte] administration was trying hard to besmirch ABS-CBN, and along with Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer,” Arao noted.“But there is nothing there pertaining to Red-tagging or anything that would point to certain inaccuracies in the reportage of ABS-CBN,” Arao said.