Philippine telecoms body orders ABS-CBN to shut down

Lawrence Kim
May 6, 2020

"He has said that I should thank ABS-CBN for all the help that ABS-CBN has in fact extended and I was even under instruction to enumerate the many things ABS-CBN has done in connection with COVID-19", said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. "It is a crushing blow to press freedom, one that was obviously ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte to silence critical reporting on his government", said Shawn Crispin, a Bangkok-based representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN, one of the country's oldest and most influential networks, to stop operating after its 25-year congressional franchise licence expired.

Mr Duterte accepted the apology but insisted that the network's fate was up to Congress.

"Failure to file an answer within the period herein granted shall be considered respondents' waiver of its rights to be heard, and the commission shall render such judgment as the law and evidence may warrant", the NTC's order also said. Congressional leaders have asked the commission to grant it a temporary license to continue operations while its renewal request is pending, but the government's solicitor general has said it can not operate without an approved franchise. Many in its long roster of popular news anchors and reporters have gone on to serve the country as vice-president, senators, congressmen, governors or mayors.

"We trust that the government will decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, recognizing ABS-CBN's role and efforts in providing the latest news and information during these challenging times", the company said. It is the Philippines' largest entertainment and media company in terms of revenue, income, assets and number of employees. "The government must act immediately to keep ABS-CBN on air and cease all attempts to curtail media freedom", Amnesty International's Philippines section director Butch Olano said in a statement.

"T$3 he Congress expressed essentially the same view as that of the [Department of Justice] and further enjoined the NTC to issue a provisional authority to [ABS-CBN]", he said, adding that the NTC issued a cease-and-desist order instead.

At least two other media organizations, including a leading newspaper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, have come under attack from Duterte for critical reporting. Rappler denied the allegation and continues to operate. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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