In this Feb. 15, 2020 photo, thousands of ABS-CBN employees gather at the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City in support of the network's franchise renewal.In this Feb. 15, 2020 photo, thousands of ABS-CBN employees gather at the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City in support of the network's franchise renewal.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
Rights groups urge Filipinos to stand against move to shut down ABS-CBN
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - May 5, 2020 - 6:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights organizations called on Filipinos to stand against the government’s order to broadcasting company ABS-CBN Corp. to go off air after its legislative franchise lapsed.

The National Telecommunications Commission on Tuesday ordered ABS-CBN to “cease and desist” operations, capping the Duterte administration’s effort to shut down the country’s top broadcaster.

In separate statements, Human Rights Watch and Karapatan said the move is a serious blow to press freedom in the Philippines at a time when access to accurate information is needed more than ever as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic.

“This also comes at the worst possible time, when the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging countries like the Philippines and when accurate and truthful information is needed crucially,” Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director, said.

“It is truly abhorrent that this order comes in the middle of a public health crisis where the free press plays a crucial role in keeping the public informed on relevant, verified and life-saving information about COVID-19 pandemic,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.

Over 11,000 media workers are also at risk of losing their jobs as millions of Filipinos get displaced by the coronavirus outbreaks.

HRW called on the NTC to rescind its order and for Congress to assert its mandate and authority over this matter.

Both human rights watchdogs asked Filipinos to reject the move to stop the operations of ABS-CBN as the “grave” repercussion of the threats against the broadcasting company cannot be ignored.

“The Filipino people should reject this despotic move to harass and silence a media organization known not only for its reach but also for its competence and dedication to deliver the news,” Robertson said.

“The Duterte regime is desperately fast-tracking its Marcosian delusions of a fascist dictatorship,” Palabay said. ABS-CBN was shut down after late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law in September 1972.

“We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand against the State's fascist attacks on press freedom and human rights, and to strongly resist and frustrate the Duterte administration’s nefarious tyrannical schemes,” she added.

ABS-CBN is expected to go off air tonight. 

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