MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists (NUJP) launched a signature campaign on Friday, January 17, asking Congress to renew the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, which President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to block.
“We call on Congress to do what is right and immediately pass the bill to renew ABS-CBN's franchise,” the NUJP said in its petition, which was signed by media practitioners from various newsrooms as well as advocacy organizations, during the Black Friday protest in Quezon City.
Among those who condemned government efforts to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise were AlterMidya, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, National Alliance of Broadcast Union, and the House of Representatives' Makabayan bloc.
ABS-CBN would have to cease its operations if its franchise is not renewed by March 30. At least 9 bills have been filed with Congress seeking the network’s franchise renewal. (READ: Duterte’s ace against ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest network)
NUJP’s Black Friday protest also came after the Manila Times reported on January 16 that the Office of the Solicitor General would be asking the Supreme Court to revoke ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“Kung ang isang well-established, popular news and public affairs and media organization ng Pilipinas ay naba-blackmail, nagigging biktima ng gusto nilang pagbabago ng depinisyon ng press freedom, sino [ang] makakapagsabi na tayo, mga mamamamahyag, ay hindi rin magiging biktima sa susunod?” said NUJP secretary general Raymund Villanueva at the demonstration at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City.
(If the government can blackmail a well-established, popular media network in the Philippines into changing the definition of press freedom, who’s to say we, ordinary members of the press, would not be subject to the same threats?)
More than 11,000 employees are at risk of losing their jobs if the government does not renew the franchise, NUJP and Altermidya said.
“Ang nakikita natin, ang lubos na apektado ng ginagawang itong panggigipit ay mga katulad nating rank and file na mga empleyado, mga journalist, na nanganganib mawalan ng trabaho, hindi na rin alam kung anong mangyayari sa kanila sa mga susunod na mga buwan,” said Bulatlat managing editor Len Olea.
(The most affected here are the ordinary rank-and-file employees who are at risk of losing their jobs, who don’t know what will happen to them in the following months.)
The groups present at the mobilization also clarified that the protest was staged to fight for press freedom and not only to defend ABS-CBN.
“Hindi naman ito usapin ng kung ikaw ay Kapamilya, Kapuso, Kapatid. Ito ay usapin ng karapatan ng bawat mamamayang Pilipino na magkaroon ng independiyenteng pagtingin sa mga impormasyong dumadaloy sa libreng pamamahayag na magmumula sa ating mga miyembro sa media,” said Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, making references to the nicknames that the 3 biggest networks call their loyal viewers.
(This is not an issue of whether you’re a Kapamilya, Kapuso, or Kapatid. This is an issue involving every Filipino’s right to have an independent view of the information they consume from the free press.)