The IPI global network expressed outrage after Philippine authorities ordered the shutdown of Rappler, the pioneering news organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner and IPI Executive Board member Maria Ressa.
Affirming an earlier decision, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s certificates of incorporation on June 28 for violating foreign ownership rules.
Rappler will appeal the decision, which comes after “highly irregular” proceedings, Ressa said in a speech at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Honolulu, according to reports.
The Philippine SEC ordered the shutdown just two days before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
Rappler’s critical coverage of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs and his abuses of power has made the news organization and Ressa targets of the president.
The Philippine SEC first revoked Rappler’s operating license in January 2018, but the newsroom denied foreign ownership — which is prohibited for mass media companies in the Philippines — and continued to operate.
Rappler and Ressa have been the victims of a relentless harassment and intimidation campaign, ranging from online attacks to arrests and legal charges. Ressa has been hit with a series of civil and criminal cases, including charges of tax evasion, three cyber libel cases and violations of foreign ownership rules. At one point she faced up to 100 years in prison across all cases.
“The Philippine’s decision to shut down Rappler is a flagrant attempt to silence a critical media outlet and a serious violation of press freedom, which has rapidly eroded under the Duterte administration”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “IPI is outraged by this order, and we call on authorities to withdraw it immediately. We stand in solidarity with Maria Ressa and Rappler who face incessant, politically motivated attacks in retaliation for simply doing their job.”
IPI Executive Board Chair Khadija Patel said: “This decision is deplorable and is testimony to the legacy of an administration that has actively impeded press freedom throughout. As we call for this order to be overturned, we also call on the newly elected president to uphold the rule of law when it comes to news media in the country and stop harassment of critical journalists.”
Newly elected president Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Vice President-elect Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, will take office on June 30 after a landslide victory in the May elections. Civil society has raised concerns over the incoming government under Marcos Jr, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose rule was marked by widespread human rights abuses and corruption.
Media groups have called on Marcos Jr to ensure the protection of press freedom, after years of Duterte waging war on journalism, which has included online harassment, the closure of news networks and baseless charges against journalists.