Rappler continues to operate, prepares to fight*
Philippine registry and securities authorities revoked the license to operate of the online news organization Rappler, after an investigation on its alleged foreign ownership.
Rappler, Inc.’s certificate of incorporation was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) en banc in a 11 January 2018 decision for violating constitutional prohibition of any foreign ownership of media businesses in the Philippines.
The SEC en banc found Rappler and its domestic stock corporation alter ego Rappler Holdings Corporation, liable for violating statutory foreign equity restrictions and the anti-dummy law. (“SEC revokes Rappler’s registration” )
In particular, the SEC questioned the involvement of the international investor Omidyar Network LLC in the form of a Philippine depositary receipt (PDR), and declared it a “fraudulent transaction.”
In a statement following the decision published on Monday (15 January 2018), Rappler addressed its readers and viewers that “The SEC’s kill order revoking Rappler’s license to operate is the first of its kind in history – both for the Commission and for Philippine media.”
It added: “What this means for you, and for us, is that the Commission is ordering us to close shop, to cease telling you stories, to stop speaking truth to power, and to let go of everything that we have built – and created – with you since 2012.” (“Stand with Rappler, defend press freedom“)
In a press conference, leaders of Rappler reiterated their statement that they “intend to not only contest this through all legal processes available to us, but also to fight for our freedom to do journalism and for your right to be heard through an independent platform.”
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is alarmed at the government order, calling it an “escalation of threats and attacks” against the press in the Philippines.
“The order to shut down Rappler is the clearest and strongest action of the government against a media organization deemed by the Duterte administration and its supporters as critical towards its policies,” said SEAPA executive director Edgardo Legaspi.
“We find ill-will in the SEC order because of its immediate recommendation to close Rappler instead of allowing the organization to address these ownership issues first,” Legaspi added. He noted that the SEC initiated its inquiry after President Duterte ordered an investigation into Rappler’s ownership during his State of the Nation Address in July 2017.
SEAPA and its members in the Philippines have pointed to a continuing harassment and muzzling of journalists and media organizations, thus encouraging the culture of violence and impunity. (“[Philippines] The media and the Duterte presidency: Impunity acute and benign, fettered flow of information“)
The President has been hostile towards certain media outlets and journalists. This attitude has resulted to direct attacks and created a chilling effect. To note: the threatened withdrawal of the broadcast license of ABS-CBN Corp., the buyout of the Philippine Daily Inquirer by a Duterte ally, and now Rappler.
SEAPA stands with the journalists and media organizations in the Philippines who speak truth to power and stand up against oppressors.
*Updated to include Rappler’s press conference on 15 January 2018