Today marks one year since the National Telecommunication Commission issued a cease-and-desist order on ABS-CBN and millions watched the network sign off at the end of “TV Patrol.”
The order, which members of Congress had assured the network and the public would never come, has led to the loss of livelihood for thousands of Kapamilyas and of countless more who worked with them as contractors and suppliers.
Although some of those the network had to let go have found employment elsewhere, many more are still facing uncertainty and more have had to leave the profession.
The shutdown has also denied millions access to news and information essential for them to understand the world we live in and to make the hundreds of daily decisions that affect their lives, especially during a pandemic.
ABS-CBN’s absence from the airwaves was even more felt in times of disasters and calamities, when 53 regional TV and radio stations that had to shut down could have provided timely local updates that could have saved lives and property.
The NTC order and House hearings that eventually led to the rejection of the network’s application for a new franchise also sent the message that other media companies could be next if they don’t “behave” and that regulatory processes can and will be used for political payback.
The ABS-CBN shutdown has contributed to the Philippines’ decline, by two places, on the World Press Freedom Index and has drawn comparisons to Marcos’ Martial Law, when media was also shut down.
Throughout all this and despite continued attacks and online harassment, ABS-CBN and its courageous journalists have continued to report over the internet and have remained constant companions in dealing with what has become the “new normal”.
We commend the Kapamilyas who have refused to be cowed into silence. We stand with them, and with those who have continued serving the public in other news outfits. We stand as well with those who have had to take a break from or leave media work over what was largely a political vendetta.
We refuse to forget how Malacañang wielded the state machinery to clamp down on one of the biggest media outlets in the country. We will not forget all those who were instrumental in this wanton violation of press freedom.
More than anything, the closure of ABS-CBN proves how the tyrant fears truth-tellers.
NUJP, along with many in the community of independent journalists, closed ranks with ABS-CBN against the shutdown. We mourned with them when 70 lawmakers voted against giving the network a new franchise.
We stand with them today in the hope—the certainty—that ABS-CBN will be back on air and will continue the vital work that it has been doing to inform as well as entertain in the service of the Filipino.