Lawmakers in the Philippines have voted against the renewal of the ABS-CBN broadcaster franchise, in a move critics say is yet another blow for press freedom in the country.
ABS-CBN, the largest TV news outlet in the Philippines, came off-air on May 5 due to a government order after its license expired. On July 10, lawmakers decided against renewing its franchise in a 70 to 11 vote, which will permanently shut the broadcaster.
#NoToABSCBNFranchiseDenial rose to a top trend on Twitter following the vote.
The broadcaster aired political advertisements opposing the then-candidate and current president Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 - a move the network backed as legitimate at the time.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alan Peter Cayetano said that the Committee on Legislative Franchise had conducted a "fair, impartial, thorough and comprehensive" hearing.
According to the network, executives had testified to say that the broadcaster had fully complied with their contractual obligations.
"This move solidifies the tyranny of President Rodrigo Duterte who accused ABS-CBN of slights against him and politically targeted it for refusing to toe the government’s line and criticizing his so-called 'war on drugs,'" Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch said after the vote.
Media watchdogs have accused President Duterte and his cabinet for muzzling freedom of the press with the publication Rappler also coming under fire by the administration.
CEO of Rappler, Maria Ressa, and journalist Reynaldo Santos Jr were found guilty of cyber-libel on June 15 and face up to six years in prison.
On July 9, The Committee to Protect Journalists and 60 other organisations launched a campaign to support Ressa and call for press freedom in the Philippines.
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