The award-winning Philippines news website, Rappler, is set to appeal against a government decision to revoke its operating licence.
The move to shut down the site sparked an outcry among media groups, who denounced the ruling made on Monday, January 15 by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The commission cited a violation of the country’s restrictions on foreign ownership of domestic media as the reason behind the decision.
Rappler, which won a Human Rights Press Award last year for The Impunity Series – which documented President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war during his first year in office – has rejected the ruling which it describes as “pure and simple harassment, the seeming coup de grace to the relentless and malicious attacks against us since 2016″. It will file an appeal within the next two weeks.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, released a statement saying it was “appalled at the move to close Rappler, a news organisation which has proved to be a brave and independent voice in the very challenging context of the Philippines since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte”.
The statement said the FCC stood with Philippine media groups, including the National Union of Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, in calling for a reversal of the decision.
Rappler has defied Duterte’s threats and intimidation to expose corruption within the police force, which has led the deadly crackdown against drugs, as well as in government ranks.
The order for Rappler to be shut down is part of a broader trend by Duterte to silence his critics. Duterte laid the foundations for his campaign of intimidation against the media shortly after he was elected in 2016 when he told reporters that some could be legitimately killed.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” he said at the time.