Philippine Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa’s Rappler news company has been ordered to shut down a day before President Rodrigo Duterte resigns. Still, she has vowed to keep the site going. Ms. Ressa has been an outspoken critic of Duterte and the deadly drug war he launched in 2016, leading to what media advocates say is a crushing series of criminal charges, investigations, and online attacks against her and Rappler. The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission delivered the final blow on Wednesday.
In a statement Wednesday, it confirmed Rappler’s “revocation of certificates of incorporation” for violating “constitutional and legal restrictions on foreign ownership in the mass media.”
Maria Ressa is a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured). Source: Getty / Ezra Acaya
Rappler said the decision “effectively confirmed the company’s closure” and promised to appeal, describing the proceedings as “highly irregular”. But Ms. Ressa was typically defiant, vowing that the news site would continue to operate while they followed the legal process. We continue to work; it’s business as usual,” Ms. Ressa told reporters, adding that “we can only hope for the best” under Rappler has had to fight to survive as Mr. Duterte’s government accused her of violating a constitutional ban on foreign property in securing funding and tax evasion. It has also been charged with a cyber dragonfly — a new criminal law introduced in 2012, the same year Rappler was founded. Mr. Duterte attacked the website by name, calling it a “fake news channel” about a story about one of its closest associates. The news portal is accused of allowing foreigners to take control of its website by issuing “certificates” by its parent company Rappler Holdings.
According to the constitution, investments in media are reserved for Filipinos or Philippine-controlled entities.
The case stems from the 2015 investment of the US-based Omidyar Network founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Mr. Omidyar later turned over his investment in Rappler to the site’s local managers to avert Mr. Duterte’s efforts to shut it down. Ms. Ressa, a US citizen, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to “ensure freedom of expression”. Is oHe is on bail and faces up to six years in prison. Rappler faces about eight cases, Ms. Ressa said. The International Center for Journalists has urged the Philippine government to reverse its order to shut Rappler down. “This legal harassment isn’t just costing Rappler time, money, and energy. It enables relentless and productive online violence designed to cool independent reporting,” ICFJ said in a statement on Twitter. Marcos Jr, the son of the former dictator of the Philippines who presided over the widespread human rights abuses and corruption, will take over from Duterte on Thursday.
Activists fear Marcos Jr’s presidency could worsen human rights and freedom of expression in the country.