Rappler: Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission orders news site shut down, founder Maria Ressa says

Ressa, CEO and founder of Rappler, issued a statement during the East-West Center International Media Conference in Honolulu saying that the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) has upheld its previous decision to revoke the license to operate the news outlet. site.

Former CNN bureau chief and TIME Person of the Year Ressa said the team will appeal the decision, “especially since the proceedings have been highly irregular.”

“What does it mean? We have legal remedies up to the highest court in the country. This is business as usual for us as we believe this cannot be enforced immediately without court approval,” Ressa wrote in an internal report. announcement to Rappler employees.

Ressa has been involved in legal battles in recent years and has said she was targeted because of her news site’s critical reporting on outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
In January 2018, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission withdrew Rappler’s registration due to an alleged violation of foreign ownership rules. The editors continued to work despite the recall.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said that Rappler’s parent company “deliberately created a complicated scheme” to cover investments from a foreign source, and that the organization is “a media outlet that has sold control to foreigners.”

According to the constitution, media companies in the Philippines cannot be owned by foreigners.

The investment in question came from the Omidyar Network, an investment vehicle created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, Rappler said at the time.

Ruppler denied foreign ownership and said the Philippine Depository Receipt (PDR), the financial instrument that manages Omidyar’s investments, gives the network no control over the company. It says the arrangement was accepted by the SEC in 2015.

CNN has contacted the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippine Embassy in the US, but has yet to receive a response.

In an order released on Wednesday, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission “confirmed and reiterated its previous finding” from 2018 that Rappler is a “media outlet” and transferred control to a foreign entity “through a Philippine depositary receipt issued by Omidyar Network.” “.

“Rappler and the RHC deliberately violated the constitution…when they gave Omidyar control,” the order reads. “Given the seriousness and severity of the breach, and the fact that no less than the constitution has been breached, this commission finds, and therefore considers, that the penalty of annulment … should be upheld and maintained.”

The decision was made a day before Duterte leaves office and new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. takes office as President of the Philippines on June 30. urged Marcos, son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to defend media freedom in the country, but some observers expressed concern about his relationship with the press.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ressa said Rappler had been harassed multiple times over the past six years and “our goal is to continue to hold the line.”

“This is intimidation. This is a political tactic. We refuse to give in to them,” she said. “We are not going to voluntarily give up our rights. And we really shouldn’t. I continue to call for this because when you give up your rights, you will never get them back.”

Francis Lim, Rappler’s legal counsel, told reporters that “we strongly disagree with the decision” and that “there are legal remedies available to challenge this decision in court.”

Rapper and the Philippines

Ressa received the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov for her efforts to defend free speech in the Philippines. She founded Rappler in 2012, and it has gained notoriety for its unflinching coverage of Duterte and his violent “war on drugs.”
Press freedom in the Philippines has deteriorated dramatically under Duterte, and the country is now ranked 147th out of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). press freedom index.
Opinion: Maria Ressa's Nobel Prize is for all of us
In 2020, one of the Philippines’ largest and most influential broadcast networks, ABS-CBN, was forced to stop broadcasting and was denied a new broadcast license.
Ressa often spoke about the challenges she and Rappler had in covering the news in the Philippines. She has faced a slew of legal challenges that many see as politically motivated, including a cyber-defamation conviction that could result in a six-year prison sentence, and alleged tax offenses.
“Journalists are being harassed in ways we have never experienced since (Marcos Sr.). In less than two years, I’ve had 10 arrest warrants against me and I’ve done nothing different than what I did (before),” she told CNN in 2021.

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