Philippine News Outlet Rappler Faces Closure

PHilippine authorities confirmed Tuesday that Rappler was to be shut down. The news site, founded by Maria Ressa (Nobel Peace Prize winner), was closed in 2018.

The media outlet had invited the wrath of President Rodrigo Duterte for its reports on his notorious “drug war,” which led to some 7,000 deaths. The Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued the ruling just two days before Duterte leaves office and late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. takes over.

Ressa, who co-founded the site in 2012 and was named TIME’s Person of the Year in 2018, told reporters Wednesday that Rappler would continue doing “business as usual.” A day before, during a speech in the East-West Center in Honolulu, she said: “Part of the reason I didn’t have much sleep last night is because we essentially got a shutdown order.”

Learn more The Killing Time: Inside Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs

Legal counsel Francis Lim said they will challenge the order, but added the organization will comply with the court verdict: “It’s not the end of the world for us—there is still a very long process to go.”

Another news website critical of Duterte’s government was also blocked for links to terrorists last week.

The SEC in a statement says the ruling “merely puts in effect” the decision to revoke the operating license of Rappler, Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation over alleged violation of foreign ownership laws. The regulator accuses Rappler of allowing Omidyar Network—a foreign investment company of billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar—to hold Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) granting them control over the news company.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte laughs at photographers when he presents a Galil rifle made in Israel to Camp Crame near Quezon, Philippines. This was April 19, 2018.

Bullit Marquez/AP

Omidyar donated the PDRs to Rappler in February 2018 to mitigate the SEC’s basis for the ruling.

Since Duterte’s 2016 election, the Philippines has been undergoing a stringent media ban. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Duterte-allied Congress revoked the broadcasting license of top local TV network ABS-CBN, which had also reported heavily on Duterte’s drug war. As a result, 11,000 workers lost their jobs.

Learn moreManila is the city where death happens at night

Duterte has seen a decline in press freedom across the 110 million-strong Southeast Asian country. The Philippines currently ranks 147th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index, as a result of the “government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment,” according to the organization.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines voiced its support for Ressa, saying the Duterte administration has used lawsuits and regulations to “muzzle the press.”

Learn more Why Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize Win Came at a Crucial Time for Journalists in the Philippines

Ressa faces at most seven civil and criminal charges in connection to Rappler. Ressa was convicted for libel but she is now out on bail while the appeal process continues.

Her efforts to protect freedom of expression in Philippines were recognized by the 2021 Nobel Prize.

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