Rappler cries harassment over SEC closure order


Posted at Jan 15 2018 07:30 PM

Rappler cries harassment over SEC closure order 1
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. ABS-CBN News

Online news site Rappler is crying harassment after it was ordered closed by the corporate regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In a decision released by the SEC en banc, it found Rappler Inc., a mass media entity, liable for violating the constitutional and foreign equity restrictions in mass media.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, in a press conference, said the SEC ruling did not go through due process.

"They didn't go through due process. The en banc, essentially, issued an order to shut us down without giving us the opportunity to respond to what the special panel found. It wasn't a normal process," she said.

She also believes that the recent decision is the final step in the harassment that journalists are facing under the Duterte administration. 

"I guess this is the last part of the kind of harassment that journalists have had in the last year or so. In Rappler, it began a year and a half ago," Ressa said.

"We stand tall. We stand firm. It's good. This is a moment we say we stand for press freedom," she said.

Ressa added that they will fight the decision and bring it to court.

"What we will do is prepare to fight. Our lawyers are preparing our next step."

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque denied that the administration is harassing the press, and urged Rappler to comply with the law. 

"The Constitution sets restrictions on the ownership and management of mass media entities to which all must abide," Roque said. 

"The issue at hand is the compliance of 100% Filipino ownership and management of mass media. It is not about infringement on the freedom of the press.

"No one is above the law. Rappler has to comply." 

Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) expressed their support for Rappler.

FOCAP said the SEC decision against Rappler "sends a chilling effect to media organizations in the country."

"Journalists must be able to work independently in an environment free from intimidation and harassment. An assault against journalists is an assault against democracy," the group said in a statement.

MAT, likewise, warned the public that the decision versus Rappler is "a preview of what's in store for media under an openly-fascist Duterte dictatorship."

"Media outlets would be slapped with questionable cases, their registration revoked and accreditation taken back — simply because Duterte and his DDS media network perceive them as critical of the regime," the group said in a Facebook post.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) also expressed its support for Rappler.

Meanwhile, both supporters and critics of Rappler took to social media to express their views on the controversy.

While there are some who warned against a possible crackdown on news organizations, some supported the move against Rappler, accusing the news site of espousing "fake news."

Rappler is one of several news organizations that has earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for critical reporting on issues hounding his administration, including the bloody war on drugs.

Late last year, Rappler launched a fund drive asking supporters to help them "stay free and independent of political pressure and commercial interests."

The campaign has collected P1.175 million in nearly 4 months.