FILIPINO journalists were devastated again following the closure of predominantly English-language media outfit CNN Philippines on January 29, 2024, some three years after the closure of giant broadcast company ABS-CBN.
“It is with heavy heart that we share the difficult news that we will stop news production operations as a result of serious financial losses,” CNN Philippines President Benjamin Ramos said in a post by one of their reporters on X, formerly Twitter.
“We thank you for delivering news that are fair, accurate and balanced. You have rightfully earned the trust of Filipinos and we sincerely thank all of you for that,” Ramos told the company employees.
CNN Philippines, which started operation under the management of Nine Media Corporation (NMC) on March 16, 2015, reportedly incurred losses of over 5 billion pesos ($88.5 million).
The local franchise holder company, however, assured that it will provide “severance packages” to its 300 workers and talents.
“This is very saddening news because aside from the country losing a source of news due to the closure of CNN Philippines, it will also result in the losses of jobs to many employees,” Tacloban City-based journalist Roel Amazona, 43, who worked as CNN Philippines stringer.
“Since 2017, I've been working with them as news talent, providing them with regional stories from Eastern Visayas. It was a privilege and honor to work as news talent for CNN Philippines, and work with their staff on big coverage,” Amazona told Sunstar Philippines.
Stanley Buenafe Gajete, who previously worked for two years at CNN Philippines, also expressed his solidarity with his former colleagues.
“I am forever grateful and honored to be part of this strong broadcast team in the country. So much learning. Mahal kita (I love you), CNN Philippines. Hugs to all former colleagues,” Gajete said.
In a separate interview with Catholic news site UCA News, Gajete said that with the closure of CNN Philippines, the Philippine media players “is now getting fewer.”
He, however, admitted that more people “are into social media” nowadays when it comes to their news sources.
“The changes in the media landscape are inevitable,” he said.
Amid the stoppage of the CNN Philippines operation, Gajete remained confident that the shutdown would not discourage communications and journalism students.
“This closure of CNN Philippines is a big blow to media and information literacy in the country, especially that this nine-year-old network has proven its track record in providing reliable and balanced news for Filipinos,” said Dr. Ulderico Alviola, the head of the University Integrated Media Centre (UIMC) and the Department of Development Communication at the Visayas State University in Baybay City.
“I find this very unfortunate because SkyCable will also be halting its cable services next month, which in turn may result in the closure of another reliable cable news channel ANC,” added Alviola.
Filipino Freelance Journalists' Guild, a newly formed group in pursuit of fair working conditions for Filipino freelance journalists nationwide, said the closure of CNN Philippines, one of the largest news companies in the country, “is a huge blow to our pursuit of truth.”
“In an era of disinformation and misinformation, this recent development is not only a disservice to journalism, but also to the public it aims to serve,” the guild said in a statement.
“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues at CNN Philippines in these trying times. We also encourage our fellow Filipinos to keep on supporting reliable news media outlets, in order for them to continue delivering truthful news that matters,” it added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the largest media group that supports the welfare of the Philippine media, also hoped that the company “will help its media workers through the transition and hope as well that our colleagues will get to come back to the profession as soon as possible.”
“The loss of another newsroom means one less source of reliable information for the public at a time when disinformation and misinformation are rampant,” it said.
Meanwhile, Jing Rey Henderson, communications officer of Caritas Philippines, maintained that the shutdown of CNN Philippines “is another sad blow to one of the democratic spaces in the country.”
“This closure also prompts a critical reflection on the resilience of media organizations in upholding their pivotal role in ensuring informed citizenry and sustaining democratic spaces,” Henderson said.
“This incident also reminds us to address the financial vulnerabilities that can compromise the integrity and continuity of the media organizations dedicated to truth, transparency, and public engagement. To CNN Philippines, thank you very much for your service to democracy and the Filipino people,” Henderson said.
On May 4, 2020, the Philippines’ largest media network ABS-CBN was padlocked after it failed to renew its franchise.
The closure resulted in the loss of livelihood to some 11,000 ABS-CBN employees, amid the coronavirus disease pandemic during those years.
In its profile of the Philippine journalism landscape, Reporters Without Borders, a global non-profit organization focused on safeguarding the right to freedom of information, described the Philippines media as “extremely vibrant despite the government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment….”
It also identified the Philippines as “one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists – as seen most shockingly when 32 reporters were massacred in the southern province of Maguindanao in 2009 – and impunity for these crimes is almost total.”