nsucurrent.com May 20, 2018

Philippines revokes registration of news website Rappler

17 January 2018, 12:08 | Colleen Roy

Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission claim that Rappler was circumventing the constitution

Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission claim that Rappler was circumventing the constitution

The outlet has been fiercely critical of president Rodrigo Duterte's administration since the controversial leader came to power in June 2016.

Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa disputed Roque's remarks and said a "war of attrition" was now underway.

Duterte, who has previously made no secret of his annoyance at Rappler's reporting, said the news site had been "throwing trash and shit all along", adding that its stories were full of innuendo and "pregnant with falsity".

Amnesty International (AI) was among those who slammed the government decision, calling it "a blatant attack on press freedom", and added that Rappler had been "fearless in holding those in power to account".

In a statement on Monday, Rappler called the decision the "first of its kind in history - both for the Commission and for Philippine media".

For instance, it reportedly contracted cyber-experts in the United States to monitor and adopt its online postings to top search engine Google's algorithms (changed frequently) so that Rappler's articles would be at the top of Google's search results.

In its statement Tuesday, the APHR pointed out that the SEC decision on Rappler comes in the face of threats to the media in the region.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque denied on Monday the accusations that the Duterte administration has participated with the license revocation of the Philippine-based online site Rappler Inc.

Following this claim, Rappler responded: "PDRs do not indicate ownership".

According to the SEC decision itself, it was Rappler president Maria Ressa (probably tapping the anti-Duterte network centered reportedly on NY billionaire Loida Nicolas Lewis) who asked for funding from North Base Media and Omidyar Network. It says the arrangement was accepted by the SEC in 2015.

During his second State of the Nation address last July, Duterte erroneously claimed that Rappler was "fully owned by Americans" and first threatened to investigate the organisation's ownership.

The time-frame of a court appeal was not immediately clear but Rappler vowed to continue publishing as before.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) welcomed the decision, according to CNN Philippines.

"The decision. sends a chilling effect to media organisations in the country", it said.

"The OSG is ready to defend the sound decision of the SEC in any forum".

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines voiced its outrage over the ruling and called on all Philippine journalists "to unite and resist every and all attempts to silence us".

The brash-talking Duterte accused Rappler past year of being owned by Americans in violation of the Philippine constitution and also said that the news outfit was funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

"It is particularly alarming to see these developments taking place in the Philippines, which has always been a model for press freedom in ASEAN", added Santiago, member of the Parliament of Malaysia.

Rappler decried the SEC decision as harassment and an attack on press freedom - a sentiment shared by other media groups.

Veteran Philippines journalist Charie Villa said political reporting in the country was "an open field" and that "people with political agendas can get bashed".

Cyber-world It needed a mass media outfit in the cyber-world: Rappler became its principal vehicle, funded, I was told, not really by its main stockholder on record who is property tycoon Benjamin Bitanga, but by a Spanish-Filipino oligarch known to be close to Ressa and to Aquino.

While it is a democracy, the Philippines' media is classified by Freedom House as only "partly free".

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