On May 5, 2020, the National Telecommunications Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order against news and entertainment network ABS-CBN, putting an immediate halt to the broadcast of all its television and radio stations across the nation. The Order cited the expiry of the network’s broadcast franchise, despite efforts continuous efforts exerted toward the renewal of the network’s franchise before Congress over the past several years.

The silencing of ABS-CBN constitutes an unjust and deafening blow to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and sends a chilling effect across all other news and media platforms, broadcast services, and platforms in the Philippines.

This action is particularly grave and insensitive in light of the current global pandemic that is threatening the lives of millions of Filipinos, a crucial time when all media channels play a crucial role in delivering critical news and guidance to the public. The closure also immediately ends the livelihood of more than 11,000 Filipino workers and their families, at this time of great economic uncertainty.

The Philippine Center of PEN International denounces this action against free expression and democracy. We call on the Philippine government to withdraw this Order and exercise its duty to serve Filipinos who are in dire need of information, assistance, and hope in these dark times.