Golden Pen and Nobel prize laureate Maria Ressa confirmed in a press conference that a decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines had effectively shut down the news platform, but vowed to “hold the line” in the face of ongoing harassment and intimidation that has blighted Rappler – and Ressa personally – for more than five years.

Rappler’s determined coverage of the policies and actions of outgoing president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his administration has brought with it a slew of legal charges and investigations. 

The latest announcement from the SEC affirms a previous decision related to accusations that Rappler violated “constitutional and statutory restrictions on foreign ownership in mass media” by accepting funding from the Omidyar Network.

Denying allegations the arrangement had violated the constitution, Rappler has said Omidyar Network was issued Philippine depositary receipts, and that these do not equate to ownership. 

Ressa reiterated that Rappler had been targeted throughout Duterte’s presidency. “We have been harassed. This is intimidation. These are political tactics. We refuse to succumb to them.”

In a rapidly deteriorating environment for media freedom under President Duterte, Ressa faces seven legal cases, including allegations of tax evasion and cyber libel. The country’s biggest broadcaster, ABS-CBN, was ordered off the air in 2020, while just last week, the National Telecommunications Commission blocked access to 28 websites.

While the government denies that legal cases against Rappler or other media outlets are politically motivated, there are increasing anxieties over whether the situation will improve as president Marcos Jr., takes office.

“Given the track record of the campaign [Marcos Jr. largely avoided media scrutiny during the election]. Given the track record of 36 years, I think the burden of proof is actually on the incoming administration. I continue to appeal to the incoming administration to work with journalists. We’re here to help you give a better future for the Philippines, we’re not your enemies.”

[Source: The Guardian, Hold the Line coalition]

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