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House panel pushes suspension of SMNI for franchise violations

A RESOLUTION calling on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend the operations of embattled Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) was adopted Tuesday evening by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises based on allegations that the media entity exceeded the privileges of its franchise.

The SMNI network operates under a franchise granted in August 2019 in favor of Swara Sug Media Corp under RA 11422.

The House franchise panel chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting adopted House Resolution No. 1499, which cited alleged numerous violations of the terms and conditions of SMNI’s franchise, specifically allowing programs to air disinformation and red-tagging certain groups and individuals.

PBA Party-list Rep. Margarita Nograles, author of the resolution, said SMNI failed to employ caution in its exercise of the privilege to operate in an industry imbued with public interest.

Nograles noted that under its franchise, SMNI was cautioned that it has “the responsibility to the public not to use its station or facilities for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of the public interest.”

“As we have heard in today’s (Tuesday) hearing, there are several instances where SMNI peddled fake news against certain public officials. They themselves are not denying these instances,” she pointed out.

Nograles framed the resolution as a collective responsibility of lawmakers to safeguard the public from false and malicious information.

She clarified that the move should not be construed as an attack on the freedom of the press but rather, a defense of the public’s right to accurate information.

“This is not an attack on the freedom of the press. Rather, we are defending the right of the people to have accurate and true reporting so that they can formulate honest opinions and thus contribute positively to society,” she said.

The approval of the Nograles resolution marked the conclusion of the franchise panel’s second hearing, which was aimed at investigating SMNI’s alleged violations.

The legislative inquiry stemmed from the privilege speech of House Deputy Majority Leader David Suarez