SMNI Suspension: Former Palace Spokesman Condemns Suppression of Press Freedom

Former palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO
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Former palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. has strongly condemned the recent cease-and-desist order issued to Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), stating that it represents a blatant suppression of press freedom. Speaking on the “Business and Politics” program hosted by The Manila Times Chairman and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd, Roque expressed his concerns regarding the implications of this order.

The parent company of SMNI, Swara Sug Media Corp., had previously been subjected to a 30-day preventive suspension order on December 21, 2023, due to alleged franchise violations. However, on January 22, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued another suspension order against SMNI, citing reports that the media company was still operating in certain areas of Region 7 (Central Visayas) on December 27, 2023.

Roque emphasized the illegality of imposing a suspension without giving SMNI an opportunity to present their side of the story. He argued that they were effectively convicted before being informed of the charges filed against them. Referring to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises’ detention of two SMNI hosts, Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Marie Badoy, during a congressional hearing in December, Roque highlighted the importance of protecting the freedom of speech, expression, and the press as guaranteed by Section 4, Article III of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

According to Roque, every minute of suppressing freedom of expression is a violation of a fundamental constitutional right. He stressed that the denial of the right to air not only infringes upon the rights of SMNI and its journalists but also deprives the people of their right to information. Roque called upon other media workers to stand in solidarity with SMNI in the face of this suppression.

Roque made a distinction between the case of ABS-CBN and SMNI, noting that ABS-CBN’s franchise had lapsed, while SMNI still possessed the privilege to broadcast. He cited jurisprudence that affirms the primacy of freedom of expression and the press over any regulatory concerns the government may have, despite its greater control over broadcast media due to owning the airwaves.

Roque warned that the threats of franchise revocation are not temporary but are likely to persist as long as Speaker Romualdez remains in power and as long as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. does not assert his authority over the speaker. He expressed concern that if the President does not demonstrate control, Speaker Romualdez will continue to suppress SMNI and potentially intimidate other media companies.

In conclusion, the cease-and-desist order issued to SMNI is seen by Harry Roque Jr. as a direct attack on press freedom. He argues that the order violates constitutional rights and highlights the need for solidarity among media workers. Roque also emphasizes the importance of protecting freedom of expression and the press, even in the face of regulatory concerns. The implications of this order extend beyond SMNI and have the potential to impact other media organizations.

Source: The Manila Times

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