By DANIEL ASIDO
MANILA – Various media groups have condemned the move of the Security and Exchange Commission to uphold its earlier decision to shut down online news Rappler, noting the weaponization of the law against government critics.
“Throughout the six years of the Duterte administration, we have seen lawsuits and regulatory processes used as tools to muzzle the press, and these, as much as the touted infrastructure projects form part of the Duterte legacy,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement.
Earlier today, Rappler’s Chief Executive Order and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa announced the SEC’s decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation.
Under President Duterte, Rappler has been subjected to various lawsuits, including tax evasion and cyber libel charges. Ressa, in a press briefing, said there are currently eight lawsuits, seven of which were against her, including cyber libel charges that are on appeal.
Rappler’s website, on the other hand, was also subjected to a massive cyberattack during the election season.
Meanwhile, alternative online news Bulatlat noted that the SEC decision comes on the heels of a National Telecommunications Commission order to internet service providers to block the websites of Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, and 25 other websites belonging to progressive and grassroots organizations.
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Bulatlat, in a statement issued this morning, said the SEC order against Rappler is yet another form of censorship.
“The recent incidents create a chilling effect and are part of the deliberate efforts to discredit and stifle the press. We call on our fellow journalists to resist the attacks and unite in defending and upholding press freedom and the public’s right to know,” Bulatlat said.
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SEC initially revoked Rappler’s registration in 2018 for allegedly violating the constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media and the Anti-Dummy Law for receiving funds from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. It upheld its decision in 2021.
NUJP’s ABS-CBN chapter said there is no better way to interpret this but as a “brazen bid to silence one of the constant critical voices against the administration.”
“Down to its last few days, the Duterte administration has shown no letup in going after perceived critics, regardless if they belong to the media whose duty it is to report the truth and scrutinize government policy,” the NUJP ABS-CBN chapter said.
Rappler said that they will appeal SEC’s decision through the courts, noting the irregularities in the proceedings.
“We are entitled to appeal this decision and will do so, especially since the proceedings were highly irregular,” Rappler said in a statement.