MANILA (3rd UPDATE) — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa on Wednesday morning said the Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered online news organization Rappler to shut down.
The SEC ruling was dated Tuesday, June 28, according to a Rappler statement that Ressa shared as she spoke at the East-West Center international media conference in Hawaii.
"We were notified by our lawyers of this ruling that effectively confirmed the shutdown of Rappler," added the statement, which said the SEC affirmed its earlier decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corp.
In a statement, the SEC confirmed the revocation of Rappler's certificates of incorporation for violating "constitutional and statutory restrictions on foreign ownership in mass media".
The SEC cited its earlier decision that questioned Rappler's Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs).
PDRs allow foreign entities to invest but not control companies in the country. The SEC said Rappler's depositary receipts have questionable provisions.
The case springs from the 2015 investment from the US-based Omidyar Network, which was established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Omidyar later transferred its investment in Rappler to the site's local managers to stave off efforts by President Rodrigo Duterte to shut it down.
Outgoing Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said Rappler could consider availing of legal remedies in light of the SEC decision.
"Let the law take its course, and allow the Securities and Exchange Commission perform its mandate," said Andanar in a statement.
'BUSINESS AS USUAL'
Rappler vowed to appeal, describing the proceedings as "highly irregular".
And the news site will continue to operate as they follow the legal process, said Ressa.
"We continue to work, it is business as usual," Ressa told reporters, adding, "We can only hope for the best" under Duterte's successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Ressa has been a vocal critic of Duterte and the deadly drug war he launched in 2016, triggering what media advocates say is a series of criminal charges, probes and online attacks against her and Rappler.
Rappler has been accused of tax evasion and cyberlibel. Ressa is fighting at least 7 court cases.
The news executive, who is both a US and a Philippine citizen, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October last year for their efforts to "safeguard freedom of expression".
The International Center for Journalists has urged the Philippine government to reverse its order to shut down Rappler.
"This legal harassment not only costs Rappler time, money and energy. It enables relentless and prolific online violence designed to chill independent reporting," ICFJ said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Akbayan said the SEC's shut down order against Rappler was a "telling blow against press freedom in the country," which could cause a chilling effect to other media organizations.
It urged the regulatory body to not use the law to "muzzle the press."
"That the SEC chose to affirm its earlier order despite this compliance is worrisome for other members of the press. Other media entities have also used PDRs, and bought them back from investors in 2020. The SEC did not demand their closure based on the same grounds," said Akbayan.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse