Rappler gets support from media, rights group after SEC’s shutdown order

Jul. 02, 2022

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Media organizations and rights group expressed their support to Rappler after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered it to cease operations on June 28, two days before Pres. Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from office.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in a statement Wednesday, June 29, said they stand with Rappler, its journalists, and staff “as the government continues to try to shut them down.”

The SEC’s recent move is an affirmation of its commission en banc decision issued on Jan. 11, 2018, which found Rappler violating the “constitutional and statutory foreign equity restrictions in mass media”.

SEC said Rappler issued “questionable Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs)” that granted Omidyar Network, a foreign entity, control over the media organization.

But NUJP said, throughout the six years of Duterte administration, they have seen lawsuits and regulatory processes used as tools to muzzle the press referring to the charges against Rappler, the denial of ABS-CBN franchise, and made-up criminal cases against community journalists, among others.

To recall, Duterte’s relationship with the media did not start well after he won the 2016 elections. He said journalists are “not exempted from assassination, if you’re son of a bitch”. When he finished his term on June 30, a total of 24 media practitioners were killed.

From 2016 to 2021, NUJP documented 230 cases of attacks on journalists including arrests and detention, filing of libel cases, intimidation, surveillance, red-tagging, and cyberattacks.

Duterte recently admitted to using his executive powers to target ABS-CBN and to block alternative news sites Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly. The latter was imposed by the National Telecommunication Commission including the regulation of blocktime broadcasting arrangements under the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas.

“It is clear now, if it had not been clear before, that the journalism community and the communities that we report about and for must stand together against government moves to harass, restrict, and silence any of us to keep the press free for all of us,” NUJP urged.

The International Federation of Journalists also supported Rappler saying “independent media is essential for informing people and holding leaders to account” and called on the government “to end its efforts to silence the media”.

The Hold the Line Coalition (HTL) Steering Committee (SC) also condemned the “historic shutdown order” saying it “marks an escalation in the years-long pressure on the few remaining independent news publishers in the Philippines”.

HTL-SC includes the International Center for Journalists, Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

Bulatlat said the SEC order is a form of censorship and is part of deliberate efforts to discredit and stifle the press.

‘Digital Martial Law’

“The Duterte administration wants to leave behind a shameless legacy of Marcosian attacks on press freedom – and that it is laying the groundwork for a digital martial law under the incoming Marcos-Duterte administration,” rights group Karapatan said.

Karapatan also rallied behind Rappler as it denounced acts of censorship and State repression. It said the chilling effect of coordinated efforts against press freedom cannot be understated when the state of human rights in the Philippines is already dismal.

“With the incoming administration’s aversion to the media together with its machinery of lies and historical distortions, these actions set a dangerous precedent to further weaponize the law to muzzle and intimidate independent media, critical voices, and dissent,” the group warned.

Rappler has appealed SEC’s decision before the Court of Appeals. While the appeal was pending, Omidyar Network, through its representative, Stephen King, announced its intention to donate the PDRs to the Filipino staff of Rappler.

In a news report, Nobel Laureate and Rappler co-founder Maria Ressa said they will “continue to work and to do business as usual.” She added, “We will follow the legal process and continue to stand up for our rights. We will hold the line”. (davaotoday.com)

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