DOJ to review SEC revocation of Rappler's registration

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Teresita J. Herbosa. BUSINESSWORLD FILE

But President Rodrigo Duterte already made his intentions clear when he denounced criticism on his bloody war on drugs from mainstream media by questioning Rappler's ownership in his State of the Nation Address (Sona).

"We intend not only to 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 like Rappler", the company said in a letter to its readers on Monday. "The president has never done that", Roque said, adding that "no one" was exempt from the law.

The Constitution requires that control for any Filipino media entity should be 100 percent. "Rappler has to comply".

The online news site has been a target of Duterte's ire over its reporting especially on the government's war against illegal drugs, which has reportedly killed up to 13,000 people.

Carlos H. Conde of Human Rights Watch said that the Philippines government was in fact pushing for greater foreign ownership in media, and so the move was aimed at curbing Rappler's journalism. They invest, but they don't own. And, to judge by Rappler's audience size and loyalty, it provides a service many Filipinos want - more, by far, than want what some long-established, politically obsequious newspapers produce. "This is about the rule of law", Calida told reporters when asked to react on journalist groups' concerns that the decision was an attack on press freedom.

"They failed to realize the broader anti-democratic repercussions of their decision, beyond the technical issues raised by the Duterte regime, thus allowing themselves to be used as a State instrument of attack on a media organization most critical of the regime's authoritarian policies and actions", she said.

The comments come after Maria Ressa, Rappler's chief executive, said that the decision by the country's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to cancel the company's incorporation papers was the result of political pressure.

Article 16, Section 11 (1) of the 1987 Constitution provides that ownership and management of media "shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly owned and managed by such citizens".

"In this country the issue is not press freedom".

Media groups slammed the decision. One signal the SEC is sending is that regulators in the Philippines may allow politics and petty populism to affect its judgments, that agencies created to be independent may be more responsive to rantings and public pressure than to notions of balance and common sense, and that promoting foreign investment and domestic innovation may rank lower in the country's hierarchy of priorities than splashy nationalism.

The decision has sparked an outcry within the Philippines from fellow journalists and social media. The decision is set to take effect within the next 15 days.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand said it is "deeply concerned" by a decision that "will have profound and negative consequences for media freedom in the Philippines".

Roque has framed the moves against Rappler as a lawful response to violations of constitutional provisions, not as an attack against the news media.

The SEC could have waited for Rappler to get the waiver notarized.

The ruling against a news organisation that Duterte derided on Tuesday as a "fake news" purveyor is seen by critics as part of his government's campaign to silence opposition to his deadly drug war that has claimed almost 4,000 lives.

Journalists and human rights activists here and overseas have rallied around Rappler.

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