More than 30 media freedom groups, journalists and academics have combined in an international statement today condemning the closure of the largest Philippine television network and calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to “urgently reinstate” the broadcaster.
In a statement organised by the Australian-based Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom (AJF), director Peter Greste said the Filipino public “greatly needs reliable information” amid the global covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“We cannot beat this virus without knowledge through transparency, and cooperation through communication,” he said.
Professor Greste said closing the broadcaster ABS-CBN at this time was “unconscionable”.
The signatories include the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), Dart Centre Asia Pacific, Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA), Public Interest Journalism Initiative, RMIT, Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, University of Melbourne’s Centre for Media and Communication Law; and Rappler, the leading digital news website of the Philippines.
The only New Zealand signatory was Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre.
Professor Greste, who is also UNESCO chair of journalism and communication at the University of Queensland, said in the statement:
“At times of crisis, reliable information is a key part of society’s ability to cope and respond. In the context of the Covid19 pandemic, the closure of broadcaster ABS-CBN is unconscionable.
“Lack of a free media makes democracy vulnerable, fractures societies and undermines trust in institutions – especially in Government.
“The Filipino public greatly needs reliable information. This is particularly the case given the well documented vulnerability of the Philippines to fake news spread through Facebook.
“We cannot beat this virus without knowledge through transparency, and cooperation through communication.
“Governments have a responsibility to maintain their democratic and social systems, and a free media plays an essential role within that.
“The closure of ABS-CBN makes the Philippines a less healthy society, and also undermines the ability of the region and the world to respond to this crisis.
“We, the undersigned journalists, press freedom groups and media organisations have come together to call on you to urgently reinstate ABS-CBN’s operating license and make an ongoing commitment to press freedom.
“Join us in maintaining a regional and global standard.”