‘Only tyrants shut down the news media,’ NUJP reminds Duterte

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MANILA, Philippines — A media organization cautioned President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday against threatening to personally shut down media outfits he disagrees with, saying “only tyrants” did that.

The directorate of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued the statement a day after Duterte, in another profanity-laden tirade, threatened to personally block the renewal of the franchise of broadcast network ABS-CBN and also to seek the seizure of a property of the family who owns the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Both news outfits have earned Duterte’s ire in the past for reportage he has found offensive. However, in his latest attack on them, he vowed action on alleged offenses that have nothing to do with journalism.

Duterte accused ABS-CBN of swindling for allegedly not airing political ads he said he and other politicians had paid for during last year’s election campaign, while he vowed to go after the Prietos, the majority owners of the Inquirer, over the Mile Long property in Makati City that is the subject of a court case.

Reacting to Duterte’s threat against the two outfits, the NUJP advised him “to step back across the line he crossed,” saying “this is the first time he has openly threatened to shut down a media organization” and accusing him of “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.”

It also reminded him that “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,” an obvious reference to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos closed down media outlets when he declared martial law and then allowed only government mouthpieces to operate. But independent journalists and media outfits, first operating covertly and eventually openly defied his attempts to control the news and eventually helped toppled the dictator.

Nevertheless, the NUJP also urged “the Philippine media community to set aside our differences and unite to oppose any and all attempts to silence us,” warning that “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.”