When the government forced ABS-CBN to go off the air on May 5, the public was dealt with a big, real-life lesson on press freedom.

And for those who were unable to share the feeling of that harrowing moment when an indefinite black screen came up—a déjà vu from martial law—Prof. Danny Arao’s tweets is your ultimate press freedom and journalism companion.

Prof. Danilo Arao is a journalist and an educator. He teaches journalism at the College of Mass Communication in the University of the Philippines Diliman. He writes for various alternative media publications and has long worked and advocated for media and news literacy.

Prof. Danny Arao’s tweets will be your shortest readings on the subject of journalism and press freedom—only 280 characters at most per lesson—in an extraordinary teaching moment of press freedom in our times.

We say, dig in.

 

The long-winding issue of the non-renewal of ABS-CBN franchise once again came to fore in a shock National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cease and desist order to the network on May 5, a day after the franchise expired on May 4. President Rodrigo Duterte talked of shutting ABS-CBN down by blocking its franchise extension since he came to the presidency.

The Senate hearing in February established ABS-CBN had no violations. Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Kapamilya Box Office offering was allowed in ABS-CBN’s franchise.

The House of Representatives has failed to act on pending legislations for the franchise renewal, with its leadership’s indecisiveness to tackle the issue even as the expiry of the franchise loomed. If not for mounting public pressure and unwanted negative publicity, they had only on March this year after all these years (at least three years) they could have acted on it, made the NTC promise to give the network a provisional authority to operate after May 4 because they were adjourning soon and would have no time to tackle the bill. (Not factoring yet that it had to go to Senate and that would take time as well and then to the president for his signature, as any law would, and can be vetoed or can lapse into law after 30 days, taking time once more.) It was like a happy medium to a tumultuous issue.

But come May 5, NTC went back on its word following the government’s lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida’s threat to sue NTC officials for graft if they give the network a provisional authority.

ABS-CBN has been off the air for five days. Congress legislation will take time. Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo yesterday questioned ABS-CBN Corp’s petition to the Supreme Court seeking to stop NTC’s order to shut down its broadcast operations, citing technicalities over the plea. Even when Presidential Spokesperon Harry Roque, who replaced Panelo, said Duterte will be neutral and will leave the fate of ABS-CBN’s franchise to Congress. Roque said Duterte is not inclined to veto the bill unless there is any constitutional infirmity. But, we’ll really just probably see when we get there, right?

Meanwhile, Duterte got what he talked about many times that he will see to it happen.

And the Filipino people, far and wide, was dealt a lesson in press freedom when a black screen came up. Now, #NeverAgain and #NeverForget are the next lessons.

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