The recent revocation of Rappler’s license to operate by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has made waves all over media.
Last Jan. 16, SEC moved to shut down Rappler Inc., claiming it violated the Constitution’s restriction on foreign ownership of media. SEC also nullified the news agency’s “alleged” unconstitutional Philippine Depositary Receipts.
Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) allow foreigners to invest in media enterprises whose ownership is constitutionally limited to Filipinos. In Rappler’s case, it receives foreign investments from Omidyar Network, a network owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and North Base Media, co-founded by Marcus Brauchli, former editor at the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Rappler CEO Maria Ressa insists that although Rappler, Inc. receives funding from foreign investors, the site and the news itself is 100% Filipino, and these investors do not influence the policies of Rappler or its editorial decisions.
Malacanang has dismissed accusations that the closure was an attack on press freedom; it said Rappler was closed because it had violated the Constitution.
The news triggered a heated debate among netizens. Many were quick to cry foul over the government’s decision, pointing out that this act is a direct harassment to the Philippine press. Senator Risa Hontiveros said, “It is also Marcosian. It’s a move straight out of the dictator’s playbook.”
However, Rappler can continue business as usual as Maria Ressa files for an appeal to the Court of Appeals within 15 days. In 2015, SEC approved the PDRs issued to the Omidyar Network Fund LLC.
The Weekly Sillimanian believes in the right to press freedom and free speech. It is a human right that everyone is entitled to. The decision to strip Rappler of its SEC registration, revoking its license to operate in the country, is quite alarming.
Online presence has a huge effect on the development of journalism. The 24/7 regular news cycle is a huge help in disseminating news stories because the internet offers more immediacy than traditional media.
Whatever the decision of the administration is on this matter, we believe that an independent press helps in democratizing opinions.