MANILA - The Duterte administration has a pattern of harassing media organizations, journalists said Monday after government's top lawyer sought to nullify ABS-CBN Corp's franchise.
The administration has intimidated at least 5 media organizations--the Philippine Daily Inquirer, VERA Files, Rappler, ABS-CBN, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, according to PDI columnist John Nery.
"There’s a pattern of harassment and the pattern is set by the President himself. As far as ABS-CBN is concerned, he has been on the record many times as saying he wants it shut down," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"You mess with one, you mess with all. That’s how protection of press freedom works. You don’t need to wait until all are harassed and intimidated," University of the Philippines journalism professor Danilo Arao added.
The Solicitor General's filing of a quo warranto petition against the franchise of ABS-CBN and one of its subsidiaries is an "issue of press freedom" and government is "weaponizing the law" to close down the network, according to Arao.
"These are not just mere coincidences and it’s a conscious effort to really suppress the media," he said.
Nery noted that Solicitor General Jose Calida was also the one who prompted the Securities and Exchange Commission to look into Rappler's Philippine Depository Receipts issued to foreigners.
"The pattern is much clearer. ABS-CBN is the largest newsroom in the country and more and more journalists realize if you can take down ABS-CBN, you can take down any institution, not just in media," he said.
Duterte has criticized ABS-CBN for allegedly not airing a campaign ad that he paid for before the 2016 presidential election. Last December, Duterte urged the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the company.
The President had also hit Inquirer and Rappler for allegedly being biased in its reporting on the administration and called VERA Files founder Ellen Tordesillas a "prostitute."
The House of Representatives has "calendared" the hearing of 11 measures seeking to renew ABS-CBN's license to operate, according to Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio Albano, vice-chair of the chamber's committee on legislative franchises.
news.abs-cbn.com is the general news website of ABS-CBN Corp.