Asia Pacific: Journalist unions speak out against ABS-CBN shutdown

Journalist unions and representative organisations in the Asia Pacific are disturbed by the “cease and desist” order that forced Philippines broadcaster ABS-CBN broadcast to shut down in early May. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates across Asia-Pacific this week called on the Philippine government to urgently restore operations at ABS-CBN in a series of letters to the country’s ambassadors.

Workers of ABS-CBN and members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines rally to show support for the broadcaster in Manila on May 5, 2020. Credit: MARIA TAN / AFP

Journalists across the region expressed their objections at the closure of ABS-CBN on May 5 in a number of letters to Philippine embassies in Pakistan, Australia, Hong Kong, India Indonesia, Bangladesh and New Zealand. In the letters, journalist unions questioned President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration’s attacks on ABS-CBN and expressed strong concerns for press freedom and the public’s right to know in the Philippines as a result.

ABS-CBN is currently not able to broadcast for three months until the House of Representatives decides on the new franchise for the network in August.

ABS-CBN Corp has meanwhile filed a motion before the Supreme Court to immediately act on its plea to resume its broadcast. The closure of the Philippines largest broadcaster has immediately impacted its 11,000 ABS-CBN workers, but more broadly continues to impact news reporting and information provided to Philippines society amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IFJ notes the various efforts made to silence ABS-CBN, including threats from solicitor general Jose Calida to prosecute the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) if it approves the provisional authority. Such efforts to undermine the independent media and due process present a clear danger to media freedom and the public’s right to know.

The IFJ said: “We note that no satisfactory evidence has been presented for why the Congress has moved slowly to renew the ABS-CBN franchise. President Duterte has not only influenced the delays in the renewal process but has repeatedly threatened and censored the independent media network over the years.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram