2 US Democratic presidential bets speak up about press freedom amid ABS-CBN shutdown threat

Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2020 10:32 AM | Updated as of Feb 24 2020 06:07 PM

Doris Nuval, Head of Knowledge Channel's School and Community Engagement joins the Solidarity gathering calling for the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN outside its headquarters in Quezon City on Friday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Two of the leading candidates for the US Democratic presidential nomination raised the alarm over the potential shut down of ABS-CBN Corp, the biggest media network in the Philippines.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed her support for the network, amid efforts by Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida to nullify its existing franchise.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

Several bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, set to lapse on March 30, are meanwhile languishing in the House of Representatives, with its leader saying the matter is "not that urgent." 

“We need you here, we need you here. and you have friends you have a friend in me, I want you to be a part of the Democratic process so hold on, remember what happens when we get knocked down we get back up, and we persist — that’s what you’re about, that’s what we are about,” Warren said in a Feb. 20 interview. 

ABS-CBN is the parent company of The Filipino Channel (TFC), which has long been the news source for millions of Filipinos in North America, delivering updates about the Philippines. 

The channel has also been witness to several US elections and is closely watching this year’s presidential race.

Warren is one of the fiercest critics of President Donald Trump, who she hopes to unseat in November.

Trump has constantly attacked the media, even calling it the enemy of the people.

Warren, in contrast, underscores the importance of an independent press.

“Our whole democracy depends on freedom of the press. I think of it this way, every two years or 4 years depending on the election, the voters hold elected officials accountable. But it is the press that holds them accountable everyday and between. A press that is free to ask questions and push on issues to raise facts and inquiries so that our elected officials are held accountable to the people," she said. 

"Freedom of the press is an important part of our democracy. If we lose that we lose one of the foundation pieces of our democracy,” she added. 

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg echoed similar sentiments saying both leaderships in the Philippines and the US have troublesome understanding of press freedom.

Buttigieg is the current frontrunner in the delegate count for the Democratic nomination after voting in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“These attacks on the press, whether they are happening in the Philippines or in the US, are so disturbing because the people value democracy, value free expression. And one of the things that I think is such an important bond between the American people and the people of the Philippines is that we have shared values. Unfortunately, our presidents aren’t reflecting those values but right now in the US it’s up to us to choose a better president,” he said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly spoken out against ABS-CBN, saying he would oppose the renewal of its franchise. But earlier this week, his spokesperson said the President does not want to see the network shut down. 

Warren and Buttigieg’s comments reflect similar concerns raised by various human rights and media groups, which have already said moves to shut down the network are meant to silence the country’s independent media.

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