Official Statement of the Association of Young Environmental Journalists on the ABS-CBN Shutdown
The Association of Young Environmental Journalists decries the cease and desist order filed by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to the Philippines’ largest broadcasting network, ABS-CBN. The events that led to its shutdown from the airwaves on May 5 have been targeted attacks on press freedom and democracy, and as young journalists committed to upholding justice and forwarding public interest, we see it as our duty to stand with the truth.
ABS-CBN has not breached any law as of the senate hearings that started last February 24 and has been filing for franchise renewal as early as 2014 — this is no debate. Verified information pertaining to the matter is easily accessible in most channels. (LOOK: Timeline: ABS-CBN Franchise)
The threat of shutdown for the network has long been looming, and its downfall has finally been brought about not by any technicality, but by politically-motivated interests.
Silencing critical institutions and individuals has become an obvious trend for the current administration, one we have experienced as an environmental community whose advocates and defenders have been victims of violence and oppression. (SEE: Philippines is deadliest country for defenders of environment)
It is in this light that we aim to highlight the importance of the press in a just and democratic society, and why young advocates and environmental defenders should join hands with the public in upholding its freedom:
- A free press safeguards our basic right to access truthful and reliable information. In a time of crisis, communication infrastructures and systems are critical lifelines, especially in disadvantaged areas. The shutdown of ABS-CBN, long been part of the Philippine communication system, is also a shutdown of information to people in communities who only have access to a single network. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, that could mean the difference between life or death. (READ MORE: In rural areas of Cebu, ABS-CBN the only information source for some families)
- A free press can exercise more freedom in forwarding public interest. Providing a space for criticism to be spoken and heard is one of the central principles of a democracy. In the current state of the Philippines where human rights violations are prevalent before and during the pandemic, it is vital that there is a space for us to take part in speaking out for justice. (LOOK: CHR reminds gov’t: Human rights not suspended in fight vs coronavirus)
- A free press ensures that the government is in check. An independent press ensures there is minimal room for the state to propagate untruths and deceit. It ensures that the media remains as watchdogs against injustices, instead of being used as a propaganda machine for the people in power.
Independent media is one of the strongest pillars of democracy. Journalists are the seekers and bringers of truth, especially in these trying times. The shutdown of ABS-CBN is a clear manifestation of the NTC and the Philippine administration’s mismatched priorities and political hubris. Instead of upholding transparency and access to reliable information, they have withheld it from the masses.
To keep silent on the grave abuse in shutting down ABS-CBN is to give license to the government to shut down media outlets critical to it. When a critical media outlet is shut down due to baseless accusations and punitive reasons, it sends a chilling precedence to others that they will be next if they don’t keep in line – an attack to the freedom of the press. An attack on a single institution of the press is an attack on democracy and an attack on us all.
As advocates and as Filipinos, AYEJ is one with the 11,000 workers of ABS-CBN and their families, the journalists, and the defenders of life and truth.