Media and human rights groups in Manila decried government moves to stop the operation of one of the country’s largest television networks.
At least 200 journalists, media workers, and supporters staged a demonstration on Feb. 10 to condemn a court petition to nullify the franchise of television giant ABS-CBN.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines said it violates the people’s right to know and disregards the freedoms of expression and of the press.
Earlier during the day, government lawyers filed a petition before the Supreme Court to revoke the franchise of the television network.
A franchise has to be granted by the government for a television or radio network to operate in the country.
The government, however, accused ABS-CBN of “unlawfully exercising” its legislative franchises by “broadcasting contents for a fee” and for “allowing foreign investments” in the company.
Human rights and activist groups, however, accused President Rodrigo Duterte of using his power and influence to shut down the television network, which he has repeatedly accused of being critical of his administration.
In December, the president accused ABS-CBN of being “a mouthpiece” and vowed not to renew its franchise.
The network, however, said it has complied with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations.
“Everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law,” read a statement from ABS-CBN.
The 25-year-long franchise of the media giant is set to expire on March 30, 2020. Congress is yet to deliberate on at least 11 bills that seek to renew the network’s franchise.
More than 11,000 employees and contractual workers will be affected if the network stops operations.
Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said the petition filed by government lawyers “has all indications of political harassment.”
“This is clearly an attempt by the Duterte government to intimidate or control ABS-CBN, which has aired and published critical reporting on the government,” he said.