Philippines govt lawyers move to shut down top broadcaster
Manila, Philippines - Philippine government lawyers moved on Monday to strip the nation’s biggest media group of its operating franchise in what campaigners branded a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte has repeatedly pledged he would stop the broadcast operations of ABSCBN, which drew his anger during his rise to power in the 2016 presidential election campaign.
The solicitor general’s petition filed with the nation’s top court alleges ABS-CBN violated provisions of its 25-year operating franchise.
‘We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices by ABS-CBN’, Solicitor-General Jose Calida said in a statement. The move comes as the broadcaster was working publicly and privately to convince lawmakers to renew its franchise, which expires on March 30.
Early in his term Duterte accused the network of failing to air his 2016 campaign advertisements and not returning the payments, and has since singled it our for ire in his speeches.
ABS-CBN, whose news and entertainment shows reach tens of millions online and via TV and radio, said it has done nothing wrong. ‘We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN’, the broadcaster said in a statement.
Advocates said the government move was the latest attack on press freedom under Duterte, who has already tangled with a top newspaper and a website.
“We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press,” said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
Staff stage a protest in support of ABS-CBN in Manila on Monday