#DefendPressFreedom: Support pours in for Rappler as SEC upholds decision to revoke certificates

June 29, 2022 - 1:04 PM
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The hashtag “#DefendPressFreedom” landed on local Twitter’s trending list as entities and individuals expressed support for news company Rappler, Inc. following an affirmation of a 2018 decision to revoke its certificates.

The revocation also applies to Rappler Holdings Corporation, its parent organization.

This was announced by Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa at the East West Center conference in Hawaii on Wednesday.

She said that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “affirmed its earlier decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC).”

“We were notified by our lawyers of this ruling that effectively confirmed the shut down of Rappler,” the veteran journalist added.

The order is dated June 28.

Ressa said they would appeal the decision, especially since the “proceedings were highly irregular.”

“We have existing legal remedies all the way up to the highest court of the land. It is business as usual for us since, in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval,” she added.

The case stems from the SEC’s order to cancel the certificate of incorporation of the online news site’s operator and Omidyar Network‘s Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) in January 2018.

PDR is a financial instrument that gives foreign investors passive economic interest in a Philippine company, while Omidyar is a “philanthropic investment firm” founded by French-born Iranian-American billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

The SEC said that the company allegedly violated the constitutional and statutory Foreign Equity Restriction in Mass Media.

Rappler appealed this to the Court of Appeals, which ordered the regulatory body to look into the effects of Omidyar’s donation.

Rappler lawyer Francis Lim in November 2021 said that the SEC “submitted a report to the Court of Appeals saying it [donation] has no effect without giving us the opportunity to comment on the effect.”

The regulatory body stood by its findings in February 2021. Rappler then filed a motion for reconsideration.

The SEC’s latest order, the news company said, is its response to the motion.

Following the news, messages of support poured in for the media outlet on Twitter Philippines through the hashtag “#DefendPressFreedom.”

“We stand with @rapplerdotcom and other media groups in these times and at all times. #DefendPressFreedom #HoldTheLine #StopTheAttacks,” De La Salle University professor David Michael San Juan tweeted.

“Journalists are more than just deliverers of the truth. They stand against the most horrifying of things to get the story to the people. I stand with @rapplerdotcom and all journalists in this fight. May the truth be in our favor… #CourageOn #DefendPressFreedom,” another Twitter user wrote.

“The truth dies in darkness. I stand with Rappler. #DefendPressFreedom #HoldTheLine #CourageOn,” a different online user said.

The Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines also posted the hashtag and said it “condemns the ongoing and relentless offensive against press freedom” in the country.

“Effective climate action relies on critical journalism that documents and exposes destructive projects, problematic policies, and other issues related to the climate crisis, even if publishing these stories supposedly goes against the politically powerful,” it said.

We youth climate activists join the calls to #StandWithRappler and #DefendPressFreedom in light of these attacks!” the group added. 

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also said it stands “together against all attempts to silence us.”

“Throughout the six years of the Duterte administration, we have seen lawsuits and regulatory processes used as tools to muzzle the press and these, as much as the touted infrastructure projects, form part of the Duterte legacy,” the group said in a statement.

“It is clear now, if it had not been clear before, that the journalism community and the communities that we report about and for must stand together against government moves to harass, restrict and silence any of us to keep the press free for all of us,” it added.