Philippines: Media calls for urgent renewal of broadcaster ABS-CBN

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and press freedom advocates are calling on the Philippines Congress to support the franchise renewal of the country’s largest broadcasting company. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) supports its affiliate NUJP and urges the Philippines Congress to ensure the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise in the interest of media freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

Black Friday protest against the government's attempt to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise. Credit: NUJP

Currently there are nine bills filed with the Congress seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN. Despite widespread support, it has been reported the government’s lawyers are attempting to revoke the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN when its franchise expires on March 30, 2020. Manila Times reported that the Office of the Solicitor General was ready to file a case before the High Court to remove Congress’ power to renew the franchise.

NUJP, ABS-CBN employees and press freedom advocates collectively called for ABS-CBN’s franchise to be renewed during a “Black Friday” protest on January 17 in Quezon City.

Concerns surrounding ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal followed statements by Philippines President Duterte on December 3, 2019, threatening to block the broadcaster’s license renewal. The threats follow a pattern of presidential threats against ABS-CBN by the president over his criticism of the broadcaster’s coverage.

ABC-CBN will be forced to cease all operations on March 30 if the franchise is not renewed. A congressional franchise bill must be approved by both houses of parliament, but the franchise renewal will ultimately require Duterte’s approval due to the president’s veto power.

The NUJP called on Congress to act and pass the bill to renew ABS-CBN's franchise.

NUJP said, “The quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General before the Supreme Court for the revocation of the network's franchise is proof that this government, in a supremely undemocratic act, is out to silence a media outfit because of the animosity of one man, the president of the Republic”.

NUJP has launched an online petition to submit to the Philippines parliament with the aim to gather one million signatures. The petition is available for viewing here.

The IFJ said: “We urge the Philippines Congress and President Duterte to respect media independence and diversity in the Philippines by renewing ABS-CBN’s franchise. Attempts at intimidation and legal means to block the renewal of such a significant media outlet would be a dangerous move for democracy and represent a clear attack on press freedom. Common sense should prevail to ensure ABS-CBN can continue the job of informing and reporting on issues in the Philippines.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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