To express support for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise and call for press freedom, media and progressive groups held a protest and candle lighting event at Freedom Park, Roxas Boulevard last March 6.
Representatives from the BayanMuna Partylist, Davao Today, College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and other groups urge to defend press freedom, calling out the current administration’s decision to freeze ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
Mars Pagoto, Regional Coordinator of CEGP, emphasized that the franchising issue of ABS-CBN is a threat to Filipino press freedom and ultimately a threat to the Filipino community.
“Ang isyung hindi pagrenew ng ABS-CBN franchise ay isang threat sa ating press freedom at isang threat talaga sa mamamayang Pilipino,” she said.
Pagtoto then expressed her concern on the imminent hike on the unemployment rate that the Philippines may face if the government were to push through on the network’s franchise renewal void.
“Mawawalan ng trabahao ang humigit kumulang 11,000 workers at hindi natin alam kung saan na sila magtatrabaho. At dahil ito’y posible, talagang tataas ang unemployment rate sa Pilipinas,” Pagtoto said.
Kath Cortez of Davao Today also believes that press freedom is slowly being oppressed as evident in the delay of the government to approve the network’s franchise application which was said to have been submitted in 2018.
“Walay pagreview sa ilang franchise application even though two years ago nag apply na sila ay tan-aw namo hinay hinay na pagkitil sa malayang pamamahayag,” she said, emphasizing the possibility of shutting down local news outfits, alternative media journalists and even school publications with the closure of a big network tycoon.
“So kung kaya niya sa mga dagko, tapos kaya niya sa mga gagmay, ang sunud ani nga ginahimo pud karon is kaya pud niya ang mga publications under this administration and these publications are tagged na as NPA,” she added.
It can be remembered that President Rodrigo Duterte has continuously slammed ABS-CBN due to the network’s failure to show his Php 2-million advertisement during the 2016 elections.
On June 12, 2019, the House of Representatives froze House Bill No. 4349 which “aims to renew ABS-CBN’s right to operate TV and radio broadcasting stations in the Philippines through microwave, satellite or whatever means, including the use of new technologies in television and radio systems.”
The franchise expiration of ABS-CBN is set on May 4, 2020 and the network had already filed at least nine bills seeking a renewal.