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Fil-Am journalists worried over Rappler shutdown order

Lalaine Ignao | TFC News Honolulu

Posted at Jul 02 2022 03:02 PM

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Nobel Peace laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa herself announced an order from the Philippines' Security and Exchange Commission to shut down her online news website.

Ressa made the announcement during her opening keynote address at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Hawaii.

The SEC affirmed its 2018 decision to declare Rappler's Philippine Depositary Receipts void and revoke its certificate of incorporation. PDRs are financial instruments to allow foreign entities to invest but not control companies. The SEC believes that Rappler violated constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership when it received PDRs from foreign investor, Omidyar Network.

Aside from the SEC case, Rappler has also faced multiple cases including tax evasion and cyberlibel. Rappler described the charges as an attack on press freedom.

"I think journalists are under attack and news organizations are under attack, because it's strategic," Ressa stressed. "If you are an authoritarian or a populist leader, you want to smash institutional knowledge. News organizations have a system that holds power to account. But if you can make people lose faith in them, this information operations, informational warfare, is not about making you believe anything. It's about making you distrust everything. The minute that happens, then we're isolated. And the voice with the loudest megaphone wins."

Local Fil-Am journalists shared their worries over the shutdown order.

"As a Filipino American, I see that this is a very blunt and forceful thing that they’re doing to prevent them from speaking the truth," Calvin Bagaoisan said.

Meanwhile, Rappler contributing writer Patricio Abinales noted, "everybody’s looking over their shoulder now. Who's next? So it’s really scary actually if they really close Rappler."

Rappler says it will appeal the SEC's shutdown order, insisting that the proceedings were highly irregular. In the meantime, Rappler stressed that it will continue operating.