Bishops say media network’s shutdown “morally unjustifiable”

Bishops of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) expressed strong alarm on the government shutdown of ABS-CBN broadcast operations.

In a statement on May 10, the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference (SCLBC) described the shutdown as “morally unjustifiable.”

Led by conference chairperson Bishop Rowel Arevalo, the bishops wrote, “We dare say that the shutdown is morally unjustifiable. It constitutes an attack not only on a single media network but also on the sublime principles of freedom and democracy.”

ABS-CBN signed-off the air on the evening of May 4 after the NTC issued a cease and desist order related to the expiration of the network’s franchise to operate. The network’s application for the renewal of its franchise has been pending in Congress since 2014.

The bishops, however, believe the government is to blame for its inaction on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

President Rodrigo Duterte has previously threatened not to renew the network’s franchise, repeatedly expressing displeasure at the network’s news coverage.

According to the bishops, the shutdown is a clear demonstration of the government’s attempts to curtail press freedom. They noted how the government had relentlessly  attacked both mainstream and alternative media that critically report about its misdeeds.

The bishops aired their apprehension and alarm on what they see as a “broader trend of incessant attacks on human rights, our fundamental freedoms and democracy.”

They also decried the government’s shutdown as “symbolic and symptomatic of a growing totalitarian rule” in the country and the threat it symbolizes for human rights.

“At the very heart of all this, the question is about how human rights are respected and protected.,” the bishops’ statement read.

It is for this reason the bishops strongly advised that “everyone must oppose strongly and unconditionally” the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

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