In a statement Tuesday, PCIJ said that the ruling of the SEC could have been less harsh by imposing penalties or fines, or ordering the news site to amend papers or unload Rappler’s foreign investment.
Screenshot from Rappler press briefing
PCIJ questions 'severe' decision of shutting down Rappler
Gaea Katreena Cabico (philstar.com) - January 16, 2018 - 8:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Security and Exchange Commission’s revocation of news outlet Rappler's business registration is “harsh” and has horrifying implications on Philippine media freedom, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said Thursday.

In a statement Tuesday, PCIJ said that the ruling of the SEC could have been less harsh by imposing penalties or fines or ordering the news site to amend papers or unload Rappler’s foreign investment.

“Was the harshest penalty of revocation of license warranted in this case? The constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press could have prevailed over the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media corporations, if the latter is indeed an issue with Rappler,” it said.

The news agency specializing in investigative reporting noted that SEC had shown leniency toward PLDT when it did not order its dissolution as it would impair the service of the company. PLDT was investigated for supposedly skirting the 60-40 ownership requirement in favor of Filipino citizens.

SEC’s Memorandum Circular No. 8, series of 2013 or the “Guidelines on Compliance with the Filipino-Foreign Ownership Requirements” had been criticized to have “tailor-made” to accommodate the telecommunications giant.

“Today, however, the SEC seem to have glossed over the fact that the harshest penalty of revoking the corporate registration of the Rappler would have impaired its delivery of news and information on matters of public concern, or even the Constitutional guarantees of press freedom and the people’s right to know,” PCIJ said.

It added: “In its decision on Rappler, the SEC has morphed from lenient to severe.”

PCIJ, the latest organization which showed support for Rappler, urged the public to assert and defend press freedom and the citizen’s right to know.

“Rappler and all independent media agencies must live to write for many more years, and outlast all the enemies of truth, good governance, and justice in this land,” it said.

READRights groups on Rappler closure: Don't shoot the messenger

Political context

PCIJ, moreover, said that the move to shut down Rappler might be politically motivated.

“It is happening amid the internecine outbursts of displeasure and vitriol by President Rodrigo Duterte and his closest allies against Rappler, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN, and generally journalists and media entities on the independent and critical reporting track,” the news outfit said.

During the inauguration of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ air traffic management systems Tuesday, Duterte denied the SEC’s decision against Rappler was political, noting that most of the agency's commissioners were Aquino administration appointees.

Rappler has been the object of the president's ire, presumably because of its critical coverage of his administration.

SEC revoked the registration of Rappler for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities because of funds coming from Omidyar Network.

The investigation into issues on Rappler’s ownership was prompted by a letter from the Office of the Solicitor General in December 2016.

Rappler has contended that its funding from Omidyar Network, created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, is through Philippine Depositary Receipts. PDR is a “financial instrument that does not give the owner voting rights in the board or management of the company,” the news site said Monday.

READSEC revokes news site Rappler's registration

 

RAPPLER SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
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