• The Financial District


Updated: Jul 16, 2020

International news organizations have raised the specter of the muzzling of news media in the country with the vote in a Congress committee that dimmed the transmission of news and other entertainment fare from the country’s top broadcaster, ABS-CBN.

The respectable New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera and Time put forth editorial content that put in perspective the committee level vote and what it means to the Philippines. All told the similar tone on the clamping down of news media critical of President Duterte reverberates.

That perspective is seen by foreign news media outlets which cited the public outburst of the President against the TV network for not airing a paid-for campaign ad during the presidential elections that Mr. Duterte won.

The news outlets also carried in their stories the supposed neutrality that the President has maintained regarding the Committee vote with presidential spokesman Harry Roque citing the “separation of powers between two co-equal branches of government.”

Still that supposed neutral stance was taken with a grain of salt.

The New York Times said in its lead paragraph: “Philippine lawmakers on Friday formally shut down the country’s largest broadcast network, the latest major blow against the news media as President Rodrigo Duterte cracks down on outlets that have been critical of his leadership.”

Time carried an AP dispatch and the lede had the same tone: “Philippine lawmakers voted Friday to reject the license renewal of the country’s largest TV network, shutting down a major news provider that had been repeatedly threatened by the president over its critical coverage.”

Al Jazeera was similarly as emphatic: “ Allies of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives voted on Friday to deny the renewal of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise, affirming a government order to shut down the country’s largest television network in a move critics say is a major blow to press freedom in the Southeast Asian nation.”

And in The Guardian the treatment was the same : “Lawmakers in the Philippines have voted against the renewal of a 25-year franchise for the nation’s biggest broadcaster ensuring a media conglomerate that has clashed with the country’s firebrand president stays off the air indefinitely.”

These news media outlets, respected all over the world have a glaring take away: Those who voted were allies of the President, ABS –CBN was dimmed out having incurred the displeasure of the President and press freedom was curtailed.

Earlier, before the scheduled vote, many business organizations have pushed for ABS-CBN’s  license renewal and while they were not as explicit, the possibility of a dried-up foreign investment climate for the Philippines, was raised.

That view, the pivot to other countries of prospective investors into the country, has now taken center stage as there is now a dim view of the Philippines as an investment destination given the dimming of the transmission facilities of ABS-CBN which was established in 1953. [Lito U. Gagni]