Duterte defiant, strikes to shut Rappler information web site

17 January, 2018, 02:23 | Author: Katrina Soto
  • Philippines: Attempts to shut down media outlet a blatant attack on free press

Global rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday said that the order of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to shut down the Philippine-based online site Rappler Inc.is "nothing less than a politicized attack".

"The constitution sets restrictions on the ownership and management of mass media entities to which all must abide", said a spokesperson for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

"As we await a final decision in this case, we stand with Rappler and their dedicated staff as they fight for their rights to continue to report on what is happening in the Philippines", he added.

The President likewise lashed out at Rappler for allowing foreigners to have control over its company despite a constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership in media. Rappler argues back that the two foreign groups with stakes in their company, Omidyar Network and North Base Media, are composed of global journalists and investors with no ownership rights.

Rappler's investigative reporting has included allegations that Duterte's government has "weaponized" social media, using it to discredit and generate online hate against critics and journalists.

Militant legislators condemned the SEC ruling as an "attack against press freedom".

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said that "an assault against journalists is an assault against democracy".

Rappler called this ruling a blow to press freedom as it "is an attack on our lifeblood", putting at stake a business model that ensures free and fearless journalism.

In the same vein, the NUJP noted the SEC's action "was but one of many threats Duterte has made against media critical of him and his governance".

Rappler first rose to prominence at the time Duterte, then mayor of Davao City and already nicknamed "the Punisher" for his brutal law and order policies, was running for president, according to a Bloomberg feature.

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Calling Rappler a "fake news outlet", Duterte said the move to shut it down was above board and should not be tied to suppression of press freedom, as the news portal had alleged.

Despite the Palace's insistence that it had nothing to do with the SEC decision and it along with its apologists would do all it can to persuade the public to believe otherwise, it need not distance itself from this development for the public to know the real score behind Rappler's plight.

The office of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte sought to distance itself on Tuesday from a regulator's decision to revoke the license of a prominent news site, rebuffing allegations the administration had initiated a crackdown on the media.

"In this country the issue is not press freedom, the issue is abuse of the elite and those in power", Duterte said.

Journalist-turned-lawyer Romel R. Bagares posted this comment on Facebook which generated an informative discussion among his fellow lawyers, many of them advocates of free expression and are active in fighting the proliferation of fake news.

Rappler said its filings to the SEC in 2015 made clear that just like several other media outlets, foreigners had invested in some of its Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR), but did not own any shares, or have a say in operations.

The site's chief executive and editor, Maria Ressa, indicated her intent to appeal the SEC's decision, which she told reporters was handed down "without due process".

"The decision. sends a chilling effect to media organisations in the country", it said.

Rappler has labelled the government's decision as harassment "pure and simple". "No one is above the law", he said. She called for Rappler to be completely transparent about its ownership issues.

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