President Rodrigo Duterte would be well advised to step back across the line he crossed on Wednesday, April 27, 2017 when he threatened to personally block the renewal by Congress of broadcast network ABS-CBN’s franchise, and to go after the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
While Mr. Duterte has publicly cursed these two and other outfits for reportage he has found objectionable, this is the first time he has openly threatened to shut down a media organization by using alleged offenses that have nothing to do with journalism.
By issuing such threats, Mr. Duterte is blatantly dangling the powers of the presidency and of the state, signaling his willingness to use these to stifle freedom of the press and of expression.
And no, lest his mouthpieces attempt to excuse him by invoking hyperbole or his peculiar sense of humor, he was clearly not joking. Just as he was not joking when he declared human rights and due process anathema to his brand of governance and now, it seems, so are a free and critical media.
What we do know is the last time a president actually shut down the press, it did not end well for him, like it almost always never ends well for tyrants.
If there is a time for the Philippine media community to set aside our differences and unite to oppose any and all attempts to silence us, it is now. Not to do so is to seal our doom and to betray our role as the Fourth Estate, the people’s watchdogs against bad and abusive governance.
THE NATIONAL DIRECTORATE
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
April 28, 2017