ABS-CBN shutdown still chills Philippine media a year after

File photo shows employees and supporters lighting candles at the gate as the ABS-CBN Corporation office in Quezon City shines the network's colors.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — A year after ABS-CBN was shut down at the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, Krixia Subingsubing noticed how she and some colleagues would sometimes hesitate asking tough questions or get cold feet before publishing big stories.

“This is really the chilling effect of the loss of ABS-CBN,” Subingsubing, a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, told Philstar.com.

“It’s the moments of hesitation, the cold feet, the anxiety and stress we feel when we cover—emotions that we shouldn’t even be having in the first place—that you realize the state really achieved its goal of driving criticism underground,” she said.

For Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility executive director Melinda Quintos-de Jesus, the effect of ABS-CBN’s closure has certainly been “intimidating” for media outlets.

So much so, she told Philstar.com, that journalists are reportedly being told by management “not to rock the boat” and “to be careful.”

Veteran journalist Manny Mogato said that while journalists try to push back against attacks, they are often left on their own as media owners get spooked by the administration’s might.

“The owners of these media are thinking about their own survival. They would not dare challenge the government because they fear that if they can close down ABS-CBN, it can also happen to them,” Mogato told ABS-CBN News Channel’s “Matters of Fact.”

After all, the government has made a lot of examples for media owners to be wary — from it retaking a 2.9-hectare property from the Inquirer’s owners to it charging Rappler with a battery of legal cases.

The result of this fear is a coverage which Quintos-de Jesus described as “accommodating” to the government narrative.

“The press has been the most accommodating that I have ever seen it since 1986, since we won back our press freedom after People Power throughout the dictatorship. We’ve been giving too much,” she said. “And part of it is, of course, the fear.” — Xave Gregorio

Show comments