Stop Threatening the Franchise: Defend Press Freedom, Assert Workers’ Rights!

The National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU), representing workers in the Broadcast industry, stands in solidarity with our fellow workers in ABS-CBN whose employment is currently being held hostage by the government’s politicking. Malacañang’s threats of shutting down the operations of ABS-CBN reveals its indifference to the plight of workers, thousands of whom would face immediate termination and loss of livelihood should the media corporation’s franchise be revoked. At the same time, the intimidation of one of the country’s largest media outlets should be seen as part of a coordinated assault against press freedom and the right of free expression – hallmarks of democratic processes that continue to be undermined under the present national situation.

The widespread propagation of fake news and the presence of known fake news peddlers and propagandists in the government is alarming not just for media workers and practitioners; the deliberate propagation of dubious and obviously false information should be exposed and rejected by the public as toxic to the national interest. At the same time, it is clear that large media outlets such as ABS-CBN are not completely innocent or without any issues.

Just as we stand against the intimidation of journalists, we also condemn the widespread labor violations and systematic disregard of worker’s rights endemic in the broadcast industry. Broadcast workers, including those in ABS-CBN, suffer from precarious employment and contractualization. Current practices such as an internal job market continue to trap workers in a permanent cycle of temporary employment. This is made worse by an anti-union environment present in the industry. Efforts by workers to practice their right to self-organization and to assert their interests are met with harassment and intimidation. Today, as we write this statement, numerous labor cases and disputes involving media outlets are currently being litigated in the courts. These cases, and the stories of labor violations and abuse are rarely reported in both mass and social media.

We assert that the defense of press freedom should also include the respect of worker’s rights in the broadcast industry. It is both hypocritical and self-defeating for journalists and media practitioners to call for the defense of the press when these institutions are themselves notorious for rights violations. Just as we stand with the brave journalists and practitioners against harassment, intimidation and the spread of fake news, so should media outlets be held accountable for the treatment of their workforce.

We therefore call on Malacañang and the honorable members of Congress to stop holding ABS-CBN’s franchise hostage. Rather than going after the franchise, which would lead to widespread termination and further stifle free speech, we call for the respect of worker’s rights and holding media outlets accountable to violations through appropriate channels such as DOLE and the NTIPC. The media, as defenders of democratic values, must serve as a role model and be the first to respect the rights of workers, which itself is one of the fundamental conditions of democracy. Doing so will make the campaign for truth, justice, and accountability stronger. Broadcast workers stand for a genuinely free and democratic press – both inside and outside the media.

The National Alliance of Broadcast Unions represents workers and in media outlets across the country such as ABS-CBN, GMA 7, TV 5, PTV 4, IBC 13, and Radio Veritas. For inquiries and concerns, please contact the Alliance at 0967 450 6193.

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