The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has revoked the operating licence of leading digital news outlet Rappler, over allegations it breached ownership rules when it accepted money from foreign organisations. Rappler Inc and Rappler Holdings Corporation filed on Monday, January 29, a petition for review of the decision, questioning the revocation of their certificates of incorporation before the Court of Appeals (CA). If the decision is upheld, the news outlet will be forced to close.
The SEC said Rappler received funding from the Omidyar Network which violated constitutional provisions banning foreign control of the media. However, Rappler asserted that investors have no role in the ownership, management and editorial board of the company.
Founded in 2012 in Manila by Maria Ressa, a former CNN bureau chief and investigative reporter, Rappler is among the most respected news organization in the Philippines. It is among Philippine news media that have been criticized by the Government over their critical coverage of the brutal drugs war.
UN Special Rapporteurs, Mr. David Kaye, Ms. Agnes Callamard, and Mr. Michel Forst, have expressed grave concern “that the government is moving to revoke Rappler's license."
“Rappler’s work rests on its own freedom to impart information, and more importantly its vast readership to have access to its public interest reporting,” the UN Rapporteurs said in a statement issued on 25 January and added, “As a matter of human rights law, there is no basis to block it from operating. Rappler and other independent outlets need particular protection because of the essential role they play in ensuring robust public debate.”
Rappler is one of the first digital media in the Philippines to use multimedia tools and today, the online news website, is one of the 10 best-known sources of information in the country. Its patented mood meter and mood navigator caught the attention of media trends observer, Niemanlab, and at the APEC CEO Summit in 2013 Rappler was the only start-up media group included in a look at innovation in the Asia-Pacific. In addition to that in 2017, the Reuters Institute featured Rappler as one of 4 international news outlets able to truly create digital native content and to make money off it.
The GFMD and its network of journalism support and media development agencies express its deep concern for this attack on press freedom and supports Rappler’s decision to appeal and recover its licence.