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Rappler shutdown prompts criticism and free press fears

Rappler shutdown prompts criticism and free press fears

The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission said Rappler violated Philippine constitutional restrictions on mass media ownership, which require that media properties be locally owned and operated, by receiving funding from Omidyar Network, a us -based philanthropic investment firm, news reports said.

A day after government regulators revoked the license of Rappler, a website that has criticized Duterte's government, the president confronted a Rappler journalist at a late-evening press forum and accused her publication of unfair reporting.

He elaborated on the issue during a chance interview that followed the event, during which he said media abuse ranges from posting unpleasant photos of public officials to publishing articles that insinuate irregularities supposedly committed by some public servants.

"If the President wanted to do that, he could have just sent the Armed Forces to their offices and padlock them which has been done by other regimes".

He also said media in general should "look into the mirror".

"This is pure and simple harassment, the seeming coup de grace to the relentless and malicious attacks against us since 2016", Rappler's website said.

Rappler, whose reporting has infuriated Duterte, said it would challenge the SEC decision which is not yet final.

Hheli Kiline, the HRW Asia deputy chief, warned of a "chilling effect if President Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte would "succeed in silencing Rappler". The president has never done that", Roque said, adding that "no one" was exempt from the law.

According to the SEC decision itself, it was Rappler president Maria Ressa (probably tapping the anti-Duterte network centered reportedly on NY billionaire Loida Nicolas Lewis) who asked for funding from North Base Media and Omidyar Network. "He was not even aware that there was this decision coming out", he added.

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In revoking Rappler's certificate of incorporation, the SEC claimed that the Philippine Deposit Receipts (PDR) sold by Rappler Holdings to a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, were fraudulent and violated the Constitutional provisions against foreign ownership of media outlets.

This "negative control" provision, the SEC noted, binds Rappler Holdings "not to, without prior good faith discussion with ON PDR Holders and without the approval of PDR Holders holding at least two thirds (2/3s) of all issued and outstanding PDRs, alter, modify or other change the Company Articles of Incorporation or By-Laws or take any other action where such adjustment, modification, change or action will prejudice the rights in relation to ON PDRs".

"This is the last part of the kind of harassment journalists have had in the a year ago or so", she said.

In a statement on Monday, Rappler called the decision the "first of its kind in history - both for the Commission and for Philippine media".

Amnesty International also denounced the ruling, calling it "an alarming attempt to silence independent journalism".

In a strongly-worded statement, the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) called the SEC closure order as a "small step to a bigger, darker agenda".

"We have nothing to do with the SEC decision". "The pattern suggests a policy of assaulting and weakening the press as an institution". "We will continue to hold power accountable and we will continue to tell the truth", Chay Hofilena, Rappler's acting managing editor, told reporters. But a hard case because it involves free expression and a perceived anti-government media firm.

She also said that journalists, not investors, have full editorial and management control of her news site.


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