Rappler: Philippine SEC orders news site to be shut down, says founder Maria Ressa

Ressa, CEO and Founder of Rappler, released a statement at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Honolulu, saying the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) upheld its earlier decision to revoke the operating license. from the news site.

Former CNN bureau chief and TIME Personality of the Year Ressa said the team would appeal the decision, “especially since the process was so irregular.”

“What does this mean? We have existing legal remedies up to the highest court in the land. It’s business as usual for us because, in our view, it’s not immediately enforceable without the court approval,” Ressa wrote in an internal statement. announcement to Rappler staff.

Ressa has been embroiled in legal battles in recent years and said she was targeted because of articles on her news site critical of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
In January 2018, the Philippine SEC revoked Rappler’s registration for alleged violation of foreign ownership rules. The newsroom continued to operate despite the dismissal.

The SEC has alleged that Rappler’s parent company “intentionally created an elaborate scheme” to cover up an investment from a foreign source, and that the organization is a “mass media entity that sold control to foreigners.” .

Constitutionally, mass media companies in the Philippines are prohibited from foreign ownership.

The investment in question came from the Omidyar Network, an investment vehicle created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, Rappler said at the time.

Rappler denied foreign ownership and said the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR), a financial instrument that governs Omidyar’s investment, gave the network no control over the company. He said the arrangement was accepted by the SEC in 2015.

CNN has contacted the Philippine SEC and the Philippine Embassy in the United States, but has not yet received a response.

In an order issued Wednesday, the Philippine SEC “confirmed and reiterated its earlier finding” from 2018 that Rappler is a “mass media entity” and that it had granted control to a foreign entity “through the Certificate of Philippine deposit issued to Omidyar Network”.

“Rappler and RHC willfully violated the constitution … when they granted control to Omidyar,” the order said. “Considering the seriousness and seriousness of the offence, and that it is no less the constitution which has been violated, this commission thus finds and retains that the penalty of dismissal … must be affirmed and maintained.”

The decision comes a day before Duterte leaves office and new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumes the Philippine presidency on June 30. urged Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to protect media freedom in the country, but some observers expressed their concern on his relationship with the press.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ressa said Rappler had been harassed many times over the past six years and that “our goal is to continue to hold the line.”

“It’s bullying. It’s political tactics. We refuse to succumb to it,” she said. “We are not going to voluntarily give up our rights. And we really shouldn’t. I continue to appeal for this because when you give up your rights, you will never get them back.”

Francis Lim, Rappler’s legal counsel, told reporters “we strongly disagree with the decision” and that there are “legal remedies available to challenge the decision in court.”

Rappler and the Philippines

Ressa won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for his efforts to protect free speech in the Philippines. She founded Rappler in 2012 and it gained notoriety for its unwavering coverage of Duterte and its brutal “War on Drugs”.
Press freedom in the Philippines has rapidly deteriorated under Duterte, and the country now ranks 147th out of 180 countries according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index.
Opinion: Maria Ressa's Nobel is for all of us
In 2020, one of the largest and most influential broadcast networks in the Philippines, ABS-CBN, was forced off the air and ordered to cease operations after being denied a new license of dissemination.
Ressa has often spoken of the challenges she and Rappler faced covering the news in the Philippines. She has been hit with a host of legal challenges widely seen as politically motivated, including a cyber libel conviction that could see her jailed for six years and alleged tax offences.
“Journalists have been targeted in a way we haven’t seen since the days of (Marcos Sr.). In less than two years I’ve had 10 warrants for my arrest and I haven’t nothing different from what I did”. that I was doing (before),” she told CNN in 2021.

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