Employees and supporters of Philippine news network ABS-CBN protest in front of the House of Representatives in Manila on July 10, 2020. A congressional committee denied ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal that day. (AFP/Miggy Hilario)

Philippine Congress denies ABS-CBN news broadcaster’s franchise renewal

Bangkok, July 10, 2020 – In response to a vote by a Philippine House of Representatives committee today to reject the renewal of the broadcasting franchise of ABS-CBN, the nation’s largest news organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Today’s congressional decision to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal is an affront to Philippine press freedom and will silence one of the country’s most influential and independent media outlets in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on Filipino legislators to reverse this decision on appeal for the sake of press freedom.”

According to news reports, the congressional committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of rejecting ABS-CBN’s application after weeks of hearings, with 70 voting to deny renewal and only 11 to renew, with two to inhibit—or abstain due to conflict of interest—and one to abstain.

The committee found that ABS-CBN was “undeserving” of renewal even though hearings found that the broadcaster had not violated any legal provisions under its previous 25-year franchise, according to reports. According to Rappler, a legislator who voted with the majority may appeal the decision within 24 hours.

CPJ sent a public letter to Philippine President Duterte on May 11 calling on him to use his executive authority to reverse a May 5 closure order against the broadcaster. In a recent interview with CPJ, ABS-CBN head of news Regina Reyes described the wider press freedom implications of the station’s closure.