‘Media is a public good:’ Closure of CNN Philippines draws concerns from UN expert

�Media is a public good:� Closure of CNN Philippines draws concerns from UN expert
CNN Philippines office
CNN Philippines website

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion said that the recent closure of CNN Philippines is a "worrying sign" for media freedom in the country.

“Making decisions or treating the media sector as a commercial sector alone is wrong,” said UN rapporteur Irene Khan on Friday, capping off a 10-day visit to the Philippines to study its human rights and press freedom situation.

Stressing the media's role in informing citizens and fostering dialogue, Khan said that the media should be seen as a "public good" and a "public service."

"What is happening in many countries, including in the Philippines, is that powerful economic and political interests are coming into media, and that sometimes leads to a direct erosion of media freedom and editorial freedom," Khan added.

On Monday, CNN Philippines announced that it was shutting down its operations due to “serious financial losses” — a move that affects around 300 employees. 

By Wednesday night, the news organization’s website and social media channels were wiped off its contents. 

Khan said that while the government should not directly interfere with media affairs, it has a stake in ensuring an environment that enables media to be free, independent, diverse and pluralistic.

The UN expert said that a broader consequence of the loss of CNN Philippines — which had “stellar record of … being able to choose the news they want to give,” according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility — is people’s loss of trustworthy information.

“Even though the decision may have been commercial, a lot of factors are coming in now that will deprive people of a valid information source,” Khan added.

According to Khan's assessment of the Philippines' media landscape, significant issues concerning media ownership and media franchises also pose a direct threat to press freedom, on top of the government's blatant censorship of alternative media outlets.

The UN expert noted that the process for setting up a broadcast media outlet in the country is “far more cumbersome than good practice,” urging officials to look into the matter.

Beyond procedural concerns, Khan raised the issue of media ownership concentration as another threat to media freedom and independence.

"I also believe that the authorities should look into the issue of media ownership monopoly and adopt rules aiming at limiting the disproportionate influence of a single person or entity,” Khan added. — Cristina Chi

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