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SMNI suspension not a press freedom issue — Castro

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 21) — The 30-day suspension of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is not an attack on press freedom, ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said.

«As it stands now the SMNI issue is shaping out not to be a press freedom issue as its hosts and 'talents' want to project,» the lawmaker's statement read.

The NTC on Thursday suspend SMNI's operations for alleged violation of its franchise.

This was more than two weeks after the House of Representatives cited SMNI hosts Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz in contempt for refusing to answer questions during an inquiry.

Celiz refused to disclose the name of his source of his claims that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent ₱1.8 billion for his foreign travels in almost one year, while Badoy gave confusing answers in relation to her role in SMNI.

READ: Lawmakers cite SMNI hosts Celiz, Badoy in contempt

Former President Rodrigo Duterte was also summoned by the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office over alleged grave threats he made against Castro on national television.

For these reasons, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board on Tuesday ordered a 14-day preventive suspension on two SMNI shows «Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa» hosted by Duterte, and «Laban Kasama ang Bayan» hosted by Badoy and Celiz.

Following the recent developments, Castro said SMNI itself is a threat to press freedom with its advocacy of «violence, disinformation (fake news), and intolerance (hate speech).»

«Hindi ito tulad sa kaso ng ABS-CBN na sinadyang pinasara ng mga Duterte dahil sa pagbatikos sa kanila,» she said.

[Translation: This is not like the case of ABS-CBN, which was deliberately shut down by the Dutertes for criticizing the administration.]

She said measures for accountability of SMNI, its hosts, executives, and owners including Pastor Quiboloy must continue, stressing that the network has become an «anti-people tool and mouthpiece» of the Dutertes and the government's anti-communist group National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC.