NPC: SEC order to revoke Rappler registration no threat to press freedom


Posted at Jan 17 2018 02:18 PM | Updated as of Jan 17 2018 02:46 PM

Journalists work at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, January 15, 2018. Dondi Tawatao, Reuters

MANILA - The National Press Club (NPC) on Tuesday said the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision to revoke the registration of news website Rappler has not curtailed press freedom.

"In the broader Philippine media industry, Rappler is just one among the thousands of media entities in the country and whose operations have remained free," Paul Gutierrez, head of the country's oldest and biggest press organization, said in a statement.

"To say that the fate of one media entity found to have run afoul with the law translates to media repression in the country is stretching the argument a bit too much."

Gutierrez said NPC has studied the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) decision to revoke the registration papers of Rappler and "found it quite clear" that the firm violated the law on foreign ownership.

"As the SEC noted, Rappler breached this constitutional limit when it allowed Omidyar to exercise control over its corporate affairs as provided for in their internal agreement, in exchange for a fund infusion of $1 million,” he said.

"Responsible journalism also means complying with the law," Gutierrez added.

Gutierrez noted that the NPC has long ago made it a policy that those applying for membership should represent not only credible but also legally established media entities. 

"In this case, we cannot be swayed by the emotion of the moment and go along with the general sentiment that press freedom has been threatened less [sic] we be accused of inconsistency," he said. 

There are some 436 television broadcast stations, 411 AM radio stations, over 1,000 FM radio stations and more than 400 newspapers today operating freely in the country, Gutierrez said. 

Prominent journalists' groups have slammed the SEC ruling, calling it a threat on press freedom.

The SEC had on Monday revoked Rappler's registration saying it had "sold control to foreigners" and violated the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.

The website management said Omidyar Network and North Base Media "do not own" the company, even as they hold Philippine Depositary Receipts.

Depositary receipts held by Omidyar stated that its holder “must have prior approval” on changes in Rappler’s articles of incorporation or by-laws, SEC spokesperson Armand Pan earlier said.

Rappler has maintained that it did not give foreign investors control over its operations and vowed to fight the SEC ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.