On Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered the closure of online news organization RAPPLER, for alleged violation of constitutional limits on foreign ownership of mass media. It is the first official attack on the country’s press freedom by the government, following threats against other media organizations such as ABS CBN by President Duterte, and forcing a change in ownership of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2017. Increasingly, this government has proven that it does not welcome any contrary viewpoints much less tolerate their proliferation.
Rappler is one of the first few news groups that started reporting on extrajudicial killings at the beginning of the government’s war on drugs in 2016 and has earned the ire of the President for its consistent coverage of police corruption, the war on the poor, martial law in Mindanao and the internet being ‘weaponized’ to support a culture of violence.
Rappler is considered by human rights groups as a frontline news organization that focuses on stories that matter, at the same time a leader among Philippine media in combating fake news and fake information, which has been used to cripple most voices critical of Duterte’s policies. It has long been a target of Duterte’s highly organized scheme of harassment and intimidation. Rappler is only the latest victim in the government’s war against the truth.
The SEC ‘kill order’ on RAPPLER is another brick in Duterte’s steady rise to authoritarian rule- a chilling message that press freedom, one of the country’s strongest democracy pillars, can be brought down. With a weakened Supreme Court, a lapdog Congress, and Cabinet officials as henchmen of the ‘wanna-be dictator’, press freedom is in a critical state.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement believes that right now, a free press is almost all that stands between a fighting chance for human rights advocacy and a graveyard silence of totalitarianism. However it is also the people’s voices that stand between Duterte’s ambitions and the defense of our democracy. So much of our values and liberties-painstakingly rebuilt after the Marcos dictatorship, albeit imperfect, have been destroyed in less than two years of Duterte’s rule; this is the challenge we, as a free nation need to overcome, thus we cannot waiver.
iDEFEND condemns this latest plot to eliminate press freedom by shutting RAPPLER down. iDEFEND supports RAPPLER’s legal challenge against the SEC order, and calls on all to protect our free press. #StandwithRappler