Roque: Rappler shutdown not attack on press freedom

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Roque: Rappler shutdown not attack on press freedom

President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in his second State of the Nation Address, claimed that Rappler was owned by foreigners, a charge the news website denied.

AP / Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission revoking the registration of news organization Rappler supposedly because of Constitutional infringement and violation of the country's anti-dummy law was not an attack on press freedom.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the SEC's decision could not be construed as an attack on press freedom as it was the 1987 Constitution that barred foreign ownership in mass media.

"[It] can't be. It's the Constitution that prohibits foreign ownership in mass media," Roque told Philstar.com when asked if the revocation could be seen as a step undermining freedom of the press.

Roque said the palace respected the decision and said that the SEC was empowered to determine the legality of corporations, and in this case, to assess if Rappler contravened the stringent requirements of the law against foreign ownership and management of mass media entities.


"The Security and Exchange Commission is empowered to determine the legality of corporations," Roque said.

"We respect the SEC decision that Rappler contravenes the strict requirements of the law that the ownership and the management of mass media entities must be wholly-owned by Filipinos," Roque added.

The SEC revoked the certificate of incorporation of Rappler on Monday for violations of the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of mass media.

The government agency said that Rappler ceded its control to foreigners, a claim denied by the news organization. It dismissed suggestions that Omidyar Network, a fund created by Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder and entrepreneur, controlled its operations.

In reaction to the order, Rappler sought to characterize the decision as an attack on press freedom. It said, "The SEC’s kill order revoking Rappler’s license to operate is the first of its kind in history – both for the Commission and for Philippine media."

Rappler has been the object of the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, presumably because of its critical coverage of his administration.

In his State of the Nation Address in July 2017, Duterte claimed that Rappler was owned by foreigners and should be probed. The website countered that its funding from Omidyar Network was through Philippine Depository Receipts.

The internal investigation, which led to the SEC decision, was prompted by the Office of the Solicitor General in December 2016.

Rappler said in its reaction to the decision that it had been consistently transparent in its practices and stressed that since its incorporation in 2012 it had complied with SEC regulations and submitted all requirements despite the risk of exposing its corporate data to "irresponsible hands with an agenda."

Rappler is not the only new organization that has come under fire since Duterte, who perceives criticisms of his governance and policies as personal, assumed the presidency in June 2016.

He has also blasted the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer and television network ABS-CBN and accused them of unfair treatment in their coverage.

The president has also targeted the businesses of the owners of the Inquirer and threatened to sue the television station for supposedly getting his campaign money without airing his advertisement in the run-up to the May 2016 elections.




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