The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to allow ABS-CBN Corporation to continue its broadcast.
“IFJ urges the authorities to allow ABS-CBN to continue its broadcasting and renew the company’s license,” the group said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order against the broadcast giant.
Its franchise lapsed on May 4, 2020 while its new application is still pending in Congress. The bills seeking for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal have been pending in the House since August 2019.
“The cease and desist order is an effort to silence media and a major step backwards for democracy and press freedom in the country,” the IFJ said.
Established in 1926, the IFJ represents 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries.
The organization “speaks for journalists within the United Nations system and within the international trade union movement.”
President Rodrigo Duterte had consistently threatened to cut ABS-CBN's franchise, as he claimed the network did not air his paid political advertisements during the 2016 election campaign.
On February 10, government lawyers led by Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition for the forfeiture of ABS-CBN's franchise for alleged abusive practices.
In a Senate hearing on February 24, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak apologized to Duterte, explaining why the network was not able to air some of his ads in the 2016 elections.
The president’s ex-special assistant, Senator Bong Go, told the panel that Duterte was wronged during the presidential campaign when ABS-CBN aired an ad critical of the then mayor of Davao City instead of the ad he had already paid for.
On February 26, Duterte accepted ABS-CBN's apology and vowed not to meddle in the franchise issue.
After three months, a day before the expiration of the ABS-CBN’s franchise, Calida warned NTC officials that they could face Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act charges if they allow ABS-CBN continue operations with a provisional authority.
On Wednesday, Malacañang defended Solicitor General Jose Calida and NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba from criticism over their actions leading to the shutdown of ABS-CBN.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque brushed aside the observation that Calida pressured the NTC, as well as the speculation that Cordoba had been dictated on.
Calida on Wednesday also defended the NTC from critics over the network’s shutdown as he blamed the Congress for it.
"The question we should be asking is, why hasn’t Congress acted on it? Who is at fault here?" he said.
Despite the recommendation of the House and the Department of Justice to allow ABS-CBN to continue operation, the NTC issued a cease and desist order against the network on Tuesday. — Joviland Rita/BM, GMA News