Duterte’s Final Word: Philippines’ Independent Rappler Outlet Shut Down

Rappler, an OCCRP-partner and independent media organization in the Philippines that has been renowned for its scrutiny of the government of Rodrigo Duterte, has been ordered to shut down.

Maria Ressa WEFNobel laureate Maria Ressa (Photo: World Economic Forum, Flickr, License)This comes as one of the last acts of Duterte before he stepped aside for his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the dictator who led the island from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Duterte was named by OCCRP as its person of the year in organized crime and corruption for 2017. He is believed to have overseen the extrajudicial killings of nearly 10,000 people as part of his war against drug addiction.

The country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that Rappler has violated  local law against foreign ownership of media – a claim that Rappler denies.

Its founder, Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, stressed that she will fight the decision.

“We will follow the legal process, we will continue to stand up for our rights,” Ressa said in a press conference, Wednesday.

International human rights organizations have also spoken out against the decision.

“Rappler is facing government retaliation for its fearless reporting about rights abuses in the ‘drug war’, Duterte and Marcos’ use of disinformation on social media, and a wide variety of rights-abusing actions over the past six years,”  Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said according to the Asia Sentinel.

“This is an effort to shut up Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, and shut down Rappler, by hook or by crook. So, it’s entirely predictable that the SEC would bend over backwards to interpret rules in a way that would enable them to take Rappler down while spuriously claiming that this is a normal regulatory action. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that’s not the case,” Robertson said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Amnesty International called on the Philippines to reverse the decision and also release former senator and human rights defender Leila de Lima, who has been kept in detention for over five years.

“We also urge the government to ensure Senator de Lima is released immediately and unconditionally, and to drop the charges against both her and Ressa as a sign that the new administration will take human rights seriously,” Amnesty said.  “The next six years offer an opportunity for radically improving the country’s human rights situation, which should include meaningful measures to provide truth, justice and reparations to those who have suffered at the hands of the state.”