Photo screencapped from PressOne.PH

The shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN has created a chilling effect especially on media owners who don’t want their business interests caught in the crossfire of Duterte’s clash with the press, journalists said in a Press Room podcast on Saturday, May 8.

“ [Kahit] na tayong mga journalists ay magsama-sama at magkapit-bisig, at gumalaw ng iisa lang para labanan ang paninikil ng ating pamahalaan, e yung ating mga media owners naman e maraming mga business interest na masasaktan kung sakaling sila ay makikitang lumalaban sa ating pamahalaan,” said Manny Mogato, columnist and editor at large of PressOne.PH.

Nonoy Espina, former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), also said media owners were afraid of “rocking the boat.”

“Kung ang mga may-ari ay ayaw gumalaw, kung sila mismo ang pipigil sa pagbabatikos ng mali, paano [na] tayo?” Espina said.

According to Reporters Without Borders, an international nonprofit organization that aims to safeguard the freedom of the press, five families in the Forbes list of the richest Filipino families are involved in the news media.

These are the Lopezes of ABS-CBN; the main shareholders of GMA Network, Gilberto Duavit, Menardo Jimenez, and Felipe Gozon; as well as the Yap family of the Manila Bulletin.

Espina urged veteran journalists to explore the possibility of forming more independent media outfits.

“Palaging panaginip ko yan e,” Espina said. “Independent, literally, ang mga media outfits, kahit maliit lang.”

Espina and Mogato agreed that the Duterte government had used the pandemic to push its political agenda, further threatening press freedom. Isabell Andrea Pine