The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) strongly condemns the cease and desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to stop the operations of the biggest network in the country, ABS-CBN.

“CTUHR stands with ABS-CBN and its thousands of workers in our call to #DefendPressFreedom. The closure order issued against ABS-CBN is a direct affront to people’s freedom of expression and press freedom. In the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis, this adds more burden to the people, depriving many of access to information and taking away the jobs of around 11,000 workers,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director said.

Arago also expressed alarm over the fact that President Duterte gets what he wants, no matter what. “Duterte’s administration can pretend that it has nothing to do with NTC’s order. But his previous statements against the network can prove otherwise. Besides, who will benefit from the closure? It is alarming that even a giant broadcasting corporation can be closed that easily just because it has stepped on the President’s ego. If they can do this to ABS-CBN, what more to less powerful and less affluent and more vocal critics?” Arago said.

Arago also stressed ABS-CBN’s role in bringing relevant, reliable and timely news and information to the people. “Amid this difficult time, people’s access to information is very important. Especially now that spreading of fake news is also rampant. We need reliable sources. The Duterte government just took that away from the people,” Arago added. Many people in far-flung provinces only have ABS-CBN as their source for relevant information as some networks do not reach their areas.

NTC ordered the closure of ABS-CBN yesterday, May 5, 2020, a day after the supposed expiration of its franchise license and two days after Solicitor General Calida threatened to file a case against the Commission if it will give the network a provisional authority after its license lapses.

Arago also highlighted that this order did not consider thousands of workers who will lose their jobs. “COVID-19 and the lockdown have already cost millions of Filipinos to lose their jobs and livelihood. Taking away the jobs of more people is simply insensitive and cruel,” Arago said.

We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to pressure Congress and the Duterte administration to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise. The last time that it was closed was during the time of the Marcos dictatorship. The people fought for it, along with other media outfits closed during that time. An attack to one is an attack to all. We cannot allow our hard-fought victories be taken away from us,” Arago ended.###