A Philippines media station has shutdown amidst speculation that the government wants to silence it for questioning controversial policies.
The sudden shutdown of a 74-year-old broadcast network marks the Philippines’ second legal action this year against a media outlet that had challenged the president, deepening worries about media freedom.
Manila’s National Telecommunications Commission ordered on May 5 that ABS-CBN quit operating radio and television stations in the capital, the network said on its news website. It was also ordered to take four regional stations off the air, the network said.
ABS-CBN’s franchise agreement expired on May 4, during a long shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, despite efforts by the network to get a congressional nod for renewal.
The government of President Rodrigo Duterte disputed terms of the renewal. Duterte felt that the network had “swindled” him by what he described as not airing ads for his 2016 national election campaign, ABS-CBN reported on its news website.
“I think it’s terrible,” said Herbie Gomez, editor of the Gold Star Daily news website in the Philippine city Cagayan de Oro. “It’s one of the biggest TV networks in the country. The shutdown left a void. There are other networks, but ABS-CBN is different. I think what happened was the reporting of the network really angered the president.”
A report on the network’s website Monday, for example, says the Philippines “ranks poorly in fight vs COVID” with an unusually high death rate.
Filipinos see the network as a source of independently reported news rather than repetition of official statements.