“Black day for media freedom in the country” – Human Rights Watch

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Employees and supporters of local television network ABS-CBN hold placards as they protest in front of the House of Representatives in Manila on July 10, 2020. – The Philippine Congress on July 10 threw out bills seeking a new franchise to the country’s largest broadcast network in the latest blow to media entities that have crossed President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo by Miggy HILARIO / AFP)

MANILA – A panel of the house of representatives had finally announced its verdict on July 10 rejecting the application for renewal of the franchise of ABC-CBN for another 25 years. The media network can still appeal for the decision although many legal experts suggest that it is better for ABS-CBN to apply for a new franchise instead of salvaging the old one.

Some 11,000 workers may be out of work and thousands more jobs in entertainment-related industries may also be hampered because of the imminent closure of the network.  Many senators and lawmakers in the opposition also expressed their dissatisfaction over the decision of the House Committee on Legislative Franchise, which conducted 13 public hearing on the application.  They said the committee could have allowed the application issue raised in the plenary level or to the senate for substantial deliberation of questions hurled to the media network.

Among those who conveyed their apprehension is the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has been critical to the Duterte administration particularly on issues involving “war on drugs” and unsolved extrajudicial killings in the country.  

In a statement issued by Phil Robertson, HRW Deputy Asia Director, it reads “The Philippine Congress’ refusal to renew the license to ABS-CBN, is a grievous assault on press freedom in the country.  Not since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos shut down ABS-CBN and other media outlets in 1972 has a single government act caused to much damage to media freedom.  This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte who accused ABS-CBN of slights against him and politically targeted it for refusing to toe the government’s line and criticizing his so-called war on drugs.”

HRW also lambasted house representatives for “kowtowing to Duterte by agreeing to seriously limit media freedom in the Philippines”.

The statement continued that “This is a black day for the media freedom in a country previously regarded as a bastion of press freedom and democracy in the region”.

Reports said over 100 attacks and 12 were killed versus journalists, since Duterte assumed office in 2016. 84 journalists were also killed in the Philippines between 1992 and 2020 making it one of the most dangerous places for journalists and media people in the world. S

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