Rappler's reporters have been banned from the Palace and from Duterte's events
Philstar.com, file

Rappler, staff challenge Duterte coverage ban at SC
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - April 11, 2019 - 4:27pm

BAGUIO, Philippines (Updated 5:43 p.m.) — Online news site Rappler and its reporters ran to the Supreme Court on Thursday to ask for the lifting of the President Rodrigo Duterte’s ban against its reporters.

On Thursday, Rappler filed a petition for certiorari before the SC to assail the chief executive's order to prohibit the news organization and its reporters from covering public events where he is present.

In a statement sent to media, the online news site said that the ban “violates constitutional guarantees of press freedom, free speech, due process and equal protection.”

The news site also argued that the prohibition “is based on a personal determination by the executive branch that Rappler or its journalists are ‘liars’ or peddlers of ‘fake news,’ a determination which has no basis in law, and effectively creates another layer of government regulation of the press.”

The Malacañang first banned journalist Pia Ranada, who covers the president, from covering a Duterte event the Palace in February 2018.

A member of the Presidential Security Group told Ranada on Feb. 20, 2018 that an order was issued to prevent her from entering the premises.

READ: PSG bars Rappler reporter from entering Malacañan

Harry Roque, presidential spokesperson at the time, said that Duterte got “irritated” with Ranada, whom the chief executive supposedly treated like his own granddaughter, and with Rappler.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said then that the move showed "extreme pettiness" on the president's part. 

"The depth to which he can stoop to unleash the awesome power of his office against individuals with whom he disagrees is, to say the least, appalling and extremely unbecoming of his office. He has acted much like petulant child throwing a fit," NUJP also said.

The petitioners noted that Duterte, on March 1, 2018, said in a speech in Filipino: “Don't reply. You're investigating us, fact-finding, well sorry. Do not f*** with me. It's difficult when it comes out, look at these newspapers and Rappler. The speech I'm making today will be presented differently by them tomorrow. That's why I'm banning them now. That is my order. Do not talk to people who will produce lies out of your statements. And who can twist it forever to the angle that they would like it to.” 

The Palace order against Rappler was issued a day after former Christopher “Bong” Go, then special assistant to the president and now running for senator, said Rappler delivers "fake news"—a comment often used for reports that are seen as critical of the administration.

Although the ban has been implemented for more than a year, no document containing the order has been made public.

The petitioners argued that the ban is “unconstitutional for violating the right to due process. Without prior notice or hearing, the president imposed the ban with no clear scope.”

In a separate statement, the news outfit said that their petition “is not just about Rappler.”

“It is about every journalist’s mandate to cover without prior restraint or threat of punishment the Office of the President and scrutinize the tremendous power it holds,” they added.

READ: Palace bans Rappler reporter from entire complex

Cases against Rappler

The ban on the news site came weeks after the Securities and Exchange Commission order their closure due to an alleged violation on foreign ownership laws.

Rappler challenged the order before the Court of Appeals, which later remanded the case to the SEC to review whether Omidyar’s donation mitigated or cured the alleged violation.

The ban from Malacañang compound for Ranada also later expanded to include all events that Duterte attends. All reporters of the news outfit, including correspondents in the regions, have been barred from covering the president's events.

Rappler is also facing legal suits before different courts in the country, which the company says is part of a pattern of political persecution.

Despite the comments from the president and his allies, the Palace has distanced itself from the cases against the online news site, saying the government is only enforcing the law.

PIA RANADA PRESS FREEDOM RAPPLER
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