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Rappler is shutting down, and the Philippines government is responsible. Maria Ressa, a journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced on Tuesday that her news outlet Rappler has been ordered to close by the Philippine government.
Ressa, the founder and CEO of Rappler, said in a statement that the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) had upheld its earlier decision to cancel the news site’s operating license during the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Honolulu.
Ressa, a former bureau chief for CNN and TIME Person of the Year, declared that the team would challenge the ruling since “the proceedings were exceedingly improper.”
Ressa has recently been embroiled in legal disputes and claims she is the target of these conflicts because of her news site’s critical coverage of the administration of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte. Due to apparent violations of foreign ownership laws, the Philippine SEC canceled Rappler’s registration in January 2018. Despite the revocation, the newsroom continued to run.
According to the SEC, the parent company of Rappler “deliberately established an elaborate plan” to conceal an investment from a foreign source and that the company is a “mass media entity that sold control to foreigners.”
In accordance with the constitution, foreign ownership is prohibited in Philippine media companies. However, according to Rappler at the time, Pierre Omidyar, the founder and CEO of eBay, invested through his investment company, the Omidyar Network.
Rappler asserted that it had no ownership stake in the company and no authority over it under the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR), a legal document regulating the Omidyar investment. Moreover, the SEC had approved the agreement in 2015, it stated.
Although CNN has contacted the Philippine SEC and the Philippine Embassy in the US, no response has been received as of yet.
The decision was made on June 29, one day before Duterte steps down and was replaced by Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The country’s media independence has been urged to be protected by media organizations, although some observers are worried about Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator, and his relationship with the press.
On Wednesday, Ressa stated at a press conference that Rappler has endured continuous harassment for the previous six years and that “our purpose is to continue holding the line.”
Together with the Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, Ressa shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for their work defending the right to free speech in the Philippines. Rappler was established by her in 2012, and it rose to fame for its frank coverage of Duterte and his ruthless “war on drugs.”
The Philippines now ranks 147th out of 180 nations on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom ranking, after a sharp decline under Duterte. In addition, as a result of being denied a new broadcast license in 2020, ABS-CBN, one of the biggest and most influential broadcasting networks in the Philippines, was forced off the air and given an order to discontinue operations.
Ressa has frequently spoken out about the difficulties she and Rappler have had reporting on the news in the Philippines. She has faced several legal issues generally regarded as politically motivated, including a conviction for cyber libel that might result in a six-year prison sentence and alleged tax crimes.