The United States on Thursday expressed its concern on the shutdown of Philippines’ largest network ABS-CBN as ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
“We are concerned by the situation regarding ABS-CBN,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
“An independent media plays a critical role in facilitating the open exchange of information and ideas which is vital to free, prosperous and secure democratic societies,” she said.
Ortagus emphasized that free media was especially significant in promoting public health amid the global COVID-19 crisis.
“This is true for the United States, the Philippines, as well as countries around the world,” she said.
On May 5, a day after the network’s franchise expired, ABS-CBN was forced to stop airing following the cease and desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
Duterte allegedly behind ABS-CBN shutdown
Many speculated President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the broadcasting company’s closure.
In December 2019, Duterte threatened to shut down ABS-CBN, saying, “Your franchise will end next year. If you expect it to be renewed, I’m sorry. I will see to it that you’re out.”
Duterte accused the network of “swindling” him for not airing his P7 million worth of political ads during the 2016 elections campaign period.
In February 2020, President Duterte accepted the apology ABS-CBN’s CEO and President Carlo Katigbak over Duterte’s unaired P7-million worth of political ad during the 2016 elections.
“We were sorry if we offended the President. That was not the intention of the network,” Katigbak said during the hearing of the Senate public services committee tackling the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
Senator Risa Hontiveros meanwhile pointed out that it is not the first time the Duterte administration attack media outlets in the country.
“Hindi na nga ito ang unang pagkakataon nagpag-shutdown o pagsubok na mag-shutdown, nauna nang i-bully ang Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, ngayon ABS-CBN,” she said.
(This is not the first that they shut down or tried to shut down [media companies]. First, they bullied Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and now ABS-CBN.)
In March 2018, Duterte said he banned Rappler from Malacañang because of its supposed “twisted” reporting.
“Mahirap kasi’ pag palabas’ yan, kita mo ‘yung mga newspaper, mga Rappler. Iba itong speech ko ngayon. Bukas, iba ang presentation niyan. Kaya bawal ngayon sila,” Duterte said during a SWAT event in Davao City on Thursday.
(It’s hard when it comes out in the newspapers, like Rappler. My speech will now be presented differently tomorrow. That’s why they’ve been banned.)
Despite the accusations, the Malacañang Palace remained firmed Duterte has nothing to do with ABS-CBN shutdown and was completely “neutral” in the issue.