Defiant staff at leading Philippines TV station applaud as the network is taken off-air by order of President Duterte following long-running feud
- Staff filmed themselves clapping and cheering at ABS-CBN offices in Manila
- Duterte has a long-running feud with the station over its critical coverage
- Philippines’ telecoms body said the channel’s 25 year licence had expired
- International watchdogs called move a blow to democracy and free speech
Defiant staff at a leading Philippines TV station applauded as the network was taken off-air yesterday by the order of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippines’ telecoms body ordered ABS-CBN to cease operations immediately saying its 25 year license had expired following a long-running feud with the country’s president.
Footage shows staff at the headquarters in the capital Manila, who say they are determined to resume operations, clapping and cheering when the channel was shut down.
Media watchdogs accused Duterte and his government of muzzling independent media like ABS-CBN that have reported critically on issues including the president’s anti-drug crackdown, in which thousands of mostly poor drug suspects have been killed.
Footage shows staff at the headquarters in the capital Manila, who say they are determined to resume operations, defiantly clapping and cheering when the channel was shut down
International watchdogs condemned the closure of ABS-CBN Corp., which Duterte has targeted in the past for its critical coverage, as a major blow to press freedom in an Asian bastion of democracy
The National Telecommunications Commission ordered the media giant to stop operating after its 25-year congressional franchise ended Monday. It reversed a statement to Congress that it would issue a temporary permit while legislators assess a franchise renewal.
Only the House of Representatives can grant or revoke such a franchise and its hearings have been delayed, in part by a coronavirus lockdown.
In a reflection of the extent of unease over the shutdown of the network, which went off air Tuesday night, both the opposition and key Duterte allies questioned the commission’s action.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition, said the timely dissemination of accurate information saves lives in a crisis and galvanizes national unity.
‘Closing down ABS-CBN costs lives, on top of unnecessarily burdening the thousands who will lose their jobs,’ she said.
Supporters and other media persons gather in fron of ABS-CBNs main office in Manila on Tuesday
Rep. Franz Alvarez, who belongs to a pro-Duterte coalition and heads the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, said the telecommunications commission’s order ‘is a clear encroachment on the jurisdiction of the House.’
Alvarez told ABS-CBN’s DZMM radio station that commission officials told lawmakers in a hearing in March that they would issue a temporary operating permit to ABS-CBN while its franchise renewal was pending based on guidance from the Department of Justice.
‘We’re really surprised why they backtracked so they have to explain,’ Alvarez told DZMM before it too went off air late Tuesday.
The Makati Business Club, a prestigious group of top business executives, said the network’s closure was a setback to national unity amid the unprecedented crisis.
Amnesty International in the Philippines said the closure order was an ‘outrageous attack’ on media freedom and asked the government to immediately to bring the network back on air.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines protested the closure ‘on behalf of journalists and thousands of workers affected by the decision’ as they struggled to cope with the contagion.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday that ABS-CBN was free to seek legal solutions and added that Duterte has left its fate to Congress
ABS-CBN has more than 11,000 news and production personnel nationwide. Aside from reporting on the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 10,000 people and killed 637 in the Philippines, it has also provided truckloads of food and medical aid.
Government officials denied the closure was a press freedom issue, insisting that everyone must comply with the law.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday that ABS-CBN was free to seek legal solutions and added that Duterte has left its fate to Congress.
But ahead of the franchise expiration, Solicitor-General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court in February to revoke the operating franchises of ABS-CBN and a subsidiary in a separate attempt to shut down the company for allegedly abusing its franchises and violating a constitutional prohibition on foreign investment in Philippine media. ABS-CBN denied the allegations.
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