Philippines: Congressman recommends ABS-CBN stop news coverage

Congressman Mike Defensor has suggested that ABS-CBN shut down its news and current affairs branches once the network returns to air. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in condemning this undemocratic statement and calls on authorities to respect press freedom.

Employees of ABS-CBN work in the editing booth at the station headquarters in Manila on May 6, 2020. Credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP

Defensor, vice chairman of the house committee on good government and public accountability, said that he had received complaints about ABS-CBN’s ‘alleged biased coverage of the hearings on its franchise’. He also stated that while he does not have a problem with the network’s entertainment shows, ‘its newscasts have become a headache.”

This is not the first time Defensor has made controversial comments about ABS-CBN. He once questioned the company’s use of Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDRs), alleging that it contravened a Constitutional provision forbidding the presence of foreign shareholders in media companies. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Philippine Stock Exchange have said that the PDRs issued by ABS-CBN Holdings were not a breach of the regulations at the time of issuance.

Defensor has also previously questioned the citizenship of the ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Gabby Lopez. The Department of Justice refuted the allegations and confirmed that Lopez had been a Filipino citizen from birth.

On May 5, ABS-CBN, one of the oldest television broadcasters in the Philippines, was forced off air after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the company to stop television and radio operations. The network has continued to broadcast some of its shows on its online platforms and over the ABS-CBN News Channel on cable, satellite TV, and iWant, as the company argued these are not covered by the franchise.

NUJP said: It becomes increasingly clear that putting the squeeze on ABS-CBN is aimed at emasculating the media by holding up the network as an example of the fate that could await other outfits that insist on being true to their watchdog role and maintaining their independence.”

The IFJ said: "News programs are integral in helping to serve public interest and promote transparency. IFJ rejects the congressman’s recommendations and calls on the authorities to protect media freedoms."

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

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