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Ging Reyes, senior vice president of ABS-CBN News, shared on her Facebook page that she joined dozens of other individuals in a protest in front of the network’s iconic tower to call for the renewal of its franchise and to defend press freedom. “We’re on the side of truth,” she said. “Thank you for standing with us! Your support and presence make us stronger in these trying times.”

IN FRONT of the ABS-CBN Headquarters in Manila and virtually online around the world, Filipinos have stood with ABS-CBN and the right to free press, regardless of the broadcasting network, publication or web page they work for or subscribe to.

They know that if the Duterte administration displays this harassment and vendetta using the power of their offices they hold in public trust, they too can be selectively targeted just because they exercise their Constitutional rights of free speech and free press, and their sacred obligation to hold government accountable.

To all our Kababayans who rally with ABS-CBN to defend and protect democracy, maraming salamat po!

Let me share with you this statement from our colleagues in the industry:

FREEDOM FOR Media, Freedom for All (FMFA), a national coalition of media-oriented organizations, calls for a collective front that enjoins not just journalists and news organizations, but Filipinos who believe that a democracy cannot flourish without a free and autonomous press. The attempt to close down ABS-CBN is a direct attack against the shared freedom of all citizens. To silence even just one source of news and information is an attack against all citizens.

The hostility expressed by President Rodrigo Duterte against all opposition, particularly news organizations and individual journalists who have dared to question and to criticize him, has been a hallmark of his administration.

The adversarial relationship between media and government has been part of our political system. The government exercises power, and power must be checked. Recognition of the press as the fourth pillar of democratic governance has assured that efforts on both sides hold the necessary balance. Only during the period of Martial Law have we seen such exertion of state power over the autonomy of the press.

We live in dangerous times. Government has marshalled its tremendous forces against news organizations and individual journalists who have dared to question and criticize the killings that marred the fight against illegal drugs, the shameful surrender of national sovereignty over our seas in the pivot to China, and the failure to provide for the welfare of the people in times of crisis.

FMFA advocates for a stronger public commitment to defend their right to a free press. Media freedom is not a sectoral concern but a larger social good, its vigor and strength benefit all. Media provide recreation for so many Filipinos who can afford little else to distract them from their troubles. Media freedom empowers citizens with information and news so that they can decide on issues that affect their lives.

Defend your rights and your freedom. Stand in solidarity with a free and autonomous press.

Happy Valentine’s Day, mga Kapamilya, Kapuso, Kapatid, Kababayan!

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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