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NUJP blasts Rep. Defensor over call on ABS-CBN to limit broadcast to non-news shows

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 6/29/2020
Mike Defensor posing for the camera: Anakalusugan party-list Representative Mike Defensor © Screencap from House of Reps teleconferencing vide Anakalusugan party-list Representative Mike Defensor

Anak Kalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor's call for ABS-CBN to drop its news and current affairs division pending congressional deliberations on bills seeking its franchise renewal is an attack on media and not just the network, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

“Thank you, party-list Rep. Mike Defensor for confirming what practically everyone knows but which this government and its minions have vainly tried to deny — that the shutdown of ABS-CBN and the circus that has become of the House hearings into the network's franchise are, indeed, a press freedom issue,” the NUJP said.

The group was reacting to Defensor's June 25 remark on One News TV saying the news and current affairs of ABS-CBN is the one causing problems in its franchise renewal because some lawmakers are not happy with the network’s “one-sided” reports.

“Now, why would the vice chairmen of the committee on good government and public accountability even entertain the thought of removing the watchdog component of ABS-CBN if not to remove a vital mechanism for ensuring good governance and accountability?” the NUJP asked.

Defensor: Not against press freedom

Defensor, in the program, said: “Personal ko 'to. Kung ako, kunyari tanggalin mo muna iyong news and public affairs. Kasi baka ma-influence ang committee, hindi para ma-curtail ang press freedom.”

Defensor further said, “Pabayaan mo iyong shows na non-political. Katulad nung reklamo nung isang kasama ko, naka-air na naman sila, tinira si ganito, tumira si ganyan, o one-sided iyong paglabas ng issue. Iyong news ang nagiging problem as of now.”

The NUJP, however, stressed that Defensor’s position does not only curtail press freedom but violates the Broadcast Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, Article 1, Sec. 2 of which states: "News shall be part of a station’s daily programming. No less than 30 minutes of daily programming should be devoted to news."

'Putting the squeeze on ABS-CBN'

“It becomes increasingly clear that putting the squeeze on ABS-CBN is aimed at emasculating the media by holding up the network as an example of the fate that could await other outfits that insist on being true to their watchdog role and maintaining their independence,” the NUJP said.

The Filipino people, the NUJP said, should stand with the critical and independent Filipino media in defense not only of the people’s collective rights and freedoms but of democracy itself.

“We call on the leadership of ABS-CBN and all other news organizations to resist these efforts to force media into subservience [and] we call on our colleagues in the community of independent Filipino journalists to close ranks and defend the freedoms and rights that allow us to fulfill our mandate of serving the people's right to know,” it said.

At least 11 bills seeking ABS-CBN franchise renewal are pending in the House of Representatives since July 2019.

ABS-CBN's franchise lapsed last May 4. It went off-air last May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued cease and desist order against the broadcast network.

NTC’s May 5 action was a turnaround from NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba’s statement before the House of Representatives in March that they will issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN given that the House and the Senate made communications stating they are in favor of such issuance. —Llanesca T. Panti/KBK, GMA News

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