MANILA - The responsibility of journalists is to the people and not to those who hold power, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said Wednesday as lawmakers decide on the fate of the country's largest broadcasting firm ABS-CBN Corp.
Lawmakers on Monday grilled ABS-CBN officials about the network's news coverage during the House of Representatives' 12th hearing into the network's license application.
The press is an "imperfect institution" that checks other imperfect branches of government, CMFR executive director Melinda de Jesus said.
"The responsibility of journalists is to the people not to the source, not to the sources of power, not to the people they are covering. They are doing this on behalf of the people," she told ANC.
"Criticism is part of it, governance requires that. The essence of it, value of it is so that citizens, including journalists, can check those who hold the power. Otherwise we are no longer a democracy, a republic," she said.
Using bias as a basis in granting a legislative franchise "completely politicizes the process," she added.
"The idea is it should be free of the political pressure and other kinds of governmental encroachment. Why? Because it is precisely the Constitution that provides this, that no law checks the autonomy of the freedom of the press," she said.
"Withholding that franchise for political reasons or personal bias-- it has to be political because they're in the legislative branch and what they do is political. It is alarming, it is absolutely dismaying that it should now be, as though we’re trying to throw the tides back on our natural growth on democracy."
De Jesus said low tolerance for criticism among public officials has "become a contagion."
ABS-CBN, which has some 11,000 workers, was forced off air on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission went back on its word to allow it to continue to its operations beyond its lapsed franchise.
The shutdown "has deprived more than 69 million Filipinos of the kind of information, analysis and commentary, and public service provided by ABS-CBN News," including migrant workers, and those without internet connection and are reached solely by the network's signal, Integrated News chief Ma. Regina Reyes told lawmakers.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.