The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed outrage over the refusal by a Philippine Congressional committee to renew the licence of ABS-CBN network, a widely watched independent broadcaster.

The Philippine House committee on legislative franchises overwhelmingly rejected the motion to extend the broadcasting licence of ABS-CBN for another 25 years. Of the 85 members of the committee 70 voted in favour of rejecting the renewal, while 11 voted against it. The voting was held after 13 hearings on the franchise bills.

The network can appeal the decision within 24 hours and the House committee will hold another hearing before making a ruling on it.

“This is a politically motivated decision by the supporters of President Duterte in the Parliament, who want to stifle independent media and critical voices in the country”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “The Philippine government is targeting media organizations that have refused to fall in line with President Duterte’s policies. Objective and factual reporting is a cornerstone of democracy and the government is undermining it.”

The ABS-CBN network has been repeatedly targeted by President Duterte. In May this year the network was closed down after its licence expired. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on May 5 ordered the network in The Philippines to close down its television and radio channels immediately thereafter to prevent the network from renewing its license. NTC ordered the closure despite earlier assurances that the television station could operate after its franchise lapsed on May 4.