World Association of News Publishers

Global Outcry as Philippines News Website Targeted for Closure

Global Outcry as Philippines News Website Targeted for Closure

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Journalists at the Philippines-based Rappler news website have been on standby since their publication was shut down on 11 January. Since the country’s Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the publication’s license, journalists – both at Rappler and around the globe – have come together to fight for press freedom.

By Colette Davidson

International condemnation is growing since Rappler had its license revoked in mid-January. On 16 January, The New York Times wrote a scathing editorial that condemned the government’s effort to silence independent voices, and on 18 January the Washington Post called the Rappler situation an “unwarranted strike at press freedom that should alarm everyone worried about the contagion of illiberalism.”

Also on 18 January, WAN-IFRA sent a letter to the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to ask him to do everything in his power to make sure the order to close Rappler is rescinded.

“The revocation of Rappler’s registration is the latest in a string of state and media actions against the website, which has frequently been critical of your presidency,” the letter reads, referring to statements made by the president against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN. “Its closure would be an indelible stain on the Philippines record of freedom of expression.”

The SEC revoked Rappler’s Certificate of Incorporation on the grounds that the publication had violated regulations that prohibit foreign ownership of the media in the Philippines. Rappler has maintained that Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, is an investor and not an owner of the company.

Rappler issued a statement immediately following the SEC’s decision, stating that the “kill order” was the first of its kind for the Philippine media.

"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," read the statement. 

On 19 January, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) staged a protest dubbed “Black Friday Protest for Freedom.” Participants were asked to wear black shirts or arm bands and join the protest in Quezon City. There, Rappler CEO, Maria Ressa, called the action by the SEC “political in nature” and stressed to the public the need to continue fighting for press freedom.

“We’re just journalists, and yet there’s a lot of effort being put into turning journalism into a crime, which it shouldn’t be. It isn’t,” said Ressa. “We’re speaking truth to power, that’s what we do. That’s what makes a democracy successful. We’re not afraid.”

Rappler was given 15 days to appeal the SEC’s decision, which it has since done. Until then, the SEC has stated that the publication’s journalists can continue working until the decision is final. President Duterte has yet to respond to WAN-IFRA’s 18 January protest letter.


Read WAN-IFRA’s full statement here.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2018-01-29 10:39

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