MANILA - News website Rappler on Tuesday criticized Malacañang's ban on its reporter Pia Ranada, saying the move was an attempt to intimidate journalists.
Rappler, in a statement, called on the government to avoid using its power to "obstruct, harass, and evade public scrutiny."
"It’s another instance of power attempting to intimidate independent journalists," it said.
"The Palace cannot jump the gun in this latest attempt to evade public scrutiny and monopolize the conversation on matters of public interest," it added.
Ranada on Tuesday said she was barred from entering Malacañang Palace upon orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Rappler said the ban was also extended to its CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa.
"It is the first time, post-Marcos, that a duly-elected president has banned particular journalists from entering the Palace," Rappler said, in reference to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, under whose regime the press was repressed.
"Rappler applauds the courage of Pia Ranada to persist in asking the tough questions that demand clear answers," it added.
Earlier, presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, citing Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, said Ranada can still cover press briefings pending the resolution of Rappler’s appeal before the Court of Appeals to reverse the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision revoking its incorporation papers.
The SEC had handed down the decision citing Rappler's alleged violation of foreign ownership rules.
Roque denied that Rappler was being barred because Palace officials did not like its reporting style.
Rappler's reports have been critical of the government. It recently ran a story on Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go's alleged meddling in a deal to supply the combat management system for new navy frigates.
Go denied the alleged interference during a Senate investigation on Monday.
Rappler said its accreditation to cover Palace events cannot be cancelled on the basis of the SEC ruling since the news website has a pending appeal.
"The case has been elevated to the Court of Appeals and is awaiting final decision. The executive branch must respect the judicial process and await the court's decision," it said.
Rappler also denied Roque's allegations that it was "editorializing" its reports on the Navy frigate deals.
"Roque accused Ranada and Rappler of editorializing and making 'conclusions without facts' – a charge we categorically and strongly deny," it said.
NUJP HITS 'PETTINESS' OF BARRING REPORTER FROM PALACE
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) director Nonoy Espina, meanwhile, criticized Malacañang's exclusion of Ranada.
Speaking to ANC, Espina said the move was not surprising but is worrisome since it gives a preview of what the President can do to silence his critics.
"We're not so much surprised with the President's show of temper. We're actually appalled by the pettiness of it all. You're the most powerful man in the country and you bully an individual and bar her from doing her job," he said.
"More worrying actually is that it shows the extent that he apparently is willing to go through to silence criticism," he added.