Press Freedom and Empowered Citizenry
We write this column at a time when the ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest media network, has been shutdown by the Duterte Administration through a “cease and desist” order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission, as the latter was threatened by Solicitor General Jose Calida with a graft charge should they grant the network with temporary permit to operate. On May 5, 2020, NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop broadcasting due to its expired franchise, and gives 10 days for the the network to explain why “it should not recall its occupied frequencies”. As a consequence, the popular TV network stopped its operations, affecting more than eleven thousand (11,000) employees who found themselves jobless. Civil society and members of both print and broadcast media have rightly observed that the action taken by the administration can be traced from the ABS-CBN’s open defiance to support the presidential candidacy of DU30 for the elections in May 2016, by refusing to accommodate his campaign adds. It may be recalled that months back, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told the House Committee on Legislative Franchises that it will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN. Congress then went on recess without passing any of the bills granting a fresh 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN.
The freedom of speech and of the press is a time-honored principle enshrined in no less than our Constitutions. We believe that this action, made on the commemoration of World Press Freedom, is a flagrant violation of this Constitutional mandate. As former Supreme Court Chief Justice JBL Reyes eruditely observed years back, and we quote: “No master but the law, No guide but conscience, No aim but justice.” Indeed, we believe that ABS-CBN has been deprived not only of justice but fair play.
Press freedom and the right to information of the citizenry, especially at a time like this, is a pillar upon which our very democracy is built. Democratic governance is eroded when its citizens are deprived of the information they need to be empowered.
QUOTATION OF THE WEEK:
“COWARDS DIE BEFORE THEIR DEATHS; THE VALIANT NEVER TASTE OF DEATH BUT ONCE.” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
FOR OUR WORD OF LIFE:
“THE FAVORS OF THE LORD I WILL RECALL, THE GLORIOUS DEEDS OF THE LORD...” ISAIAH 63;7