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Asian media unions denounce ABS-CBN shutdown, demand franchise renewal

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Asian media unions denounce ABS-CBN shutdown, demand franchise renewal
An employee of ABS-CBN works in the newsroom at the station headquarters in Manila on May 6, 2020. The shutting down of the Philippines' top broadcaster crosses a dangerous line in eroding the nation's democracy and sends a warning to those who risk angering President Rodrigo Duterte, watchdogs said. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Media organizations based in Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are protesting the controversial shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, calling out the Philippine government for blocking the renewal of the network's franchise.

Last week, the National Telecommunications Commission filed a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after its 25-year legislative franchise expired, leading to the shutdown of the network’s radio and television stations including ABS-CBN, DZMM, MOR and DZMM Teleradyo.

In separate letters to the Philippine ambassadors and consul generals in their respective countries, the unions wrote that the network shutdown has no sufficient basis, deprives rural areas of access to information, threatens the livelihood of around 11,000 workers and is just another in a series of local attacks on press freedom.

"We are concerned that ABS-CBN has been under constant attack by Duterte administration and fear that the shutdown is yet another attack on press freedom in your country. It is an attack on all Filipinos who rely on the network for news and information. The closure will also put additional financial strain on the families of ABS-CBN workers during the current lockdown," read the near-uniform letters dated Thursday and Friday.

"We note that no satisfactory evidence has been presented for why the Congress has moved slowly to renew the ABS-CBN franchise. President Duterte has not only influenced the delays in the renewal process but has repeatedly threatened and censored the independent media network over the years.”

Related: What are ABS-CBN’s chances of renewing its franchise?

They specifically mentioned how Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government's top lawyer, warned the NTC that it could face graft charges by granting provisional authority to ABS-CBN, that would have allowed it to continue operating pending approval of franchise legislation.

"These efforts to undermine the independent media and due process present a clear danger to media freedom and the public's right to know. We call on the Duterte administration to act swiftly to ensure that Congress renews the network's license and restore ABS-CBN to the air. To do otherwise would harm the Administration's reputation during this global health crisis.”

The letters released by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Saturday were from the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the National Union of Journalists (India), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and the Free Media Movement and Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions in Sri Lanka.

The said unions are all affiliated with the International Federation of Journalists, the largest collective of media unions worldwide, representing over 600,000 practitioners from 187 organizations in 146 countries.

According to the NUJP, the IFJ has relayed that these statements submitted this week are "just the first letters to Philippine ambassadors by its affiliates."

ABS-CBN

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE RENEWAL

ABS-CBN SHUTDOWN

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