Solicitor General files to revoke ABS-CBN franchise . . .
The Philippine government has asked the Supreme Court to shut down the country’s largest news network, ABS-CBN, alleging violations of the network’s operating franchise. Today, Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a 'quo warranto' petition to legally revoke the network’s franchise, which without renewal will expire in March. The petition accused the network of engaging in “highly abusive practices,” violating foreign ownership restrictions, and launching media products without the required permits. ABS-CBN released a statement refuting the petition’s claims.
Threats to Philippine press freedom . . .
Since 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to shut down ABS-CBN and block the renewal of its franchise. In that year, Duterte accused the network of refusing to run his political ads during the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as unfairly reporting on him, particularly concerning the drug war. These developments echo similar actions taken against other news networks. In 2017, Duterte attacked the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper for perceived unfair reporting about him. Earlier in 2019, social news network Rappler was legally challenged on violations regarding foreign ownership, leading to the arrest of its CEO. Analysts note that these networks have been at the forefront of reporting on Duterte’s drug war.
A deadly country for journalists . . .
The Philippines is known as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. The country’s deadliest attack on the press was in 2009, when 32 journalists were killed alongside 58 other people enroute to a political event in a massacre orchestrated by the Ampatuan family of Maguindanao. After a decade-long court case ending in December 2019, Ampatuan Jr. – along with several other relatives and primary suspects – was found guilty on multiple accounts of murder in connection with the massacre. The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada annually hosts the recipient of the Marshall McLuhan Fellowship, an award given by the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines to one outstanding journalist. In 2018, Jeff Canoy from ABS-CBN was selected for the award; 2019’s recipient was Patricia Evangelista, notable for her coverage of the Maguindanao massacre.
- Al Jazeera: 'Chilling': Duterte tries to shut Philippines biggest TV station
- International Federation of Journalists: Holding the line: Southeast Asia media freedom report 2019
- Rappler: Timeline: Duterte against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal