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SEC ruling on Rappler tantamount to killing news site —FOCAP

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines has expressed deep concern over the cancellation of the certificate of incorporation of the news website Rappler.

The group of journalists covering the Philippines for foreign news firms said the Securities and Exchange Commission's ruling on Rappler's supposed foreign ownership was "tantamount to killing the online news site."

"The decision, which is tantamount to killing the online news site, sends a chilling effect to media organizations in the country," FOCAP said in a statement.

"Journalists must be able to work independently in an environment free from intimidation and harassment. An assault against journalists is an assault against democracy," it added.

In its decision, the SEC cited the Foreign Equity Restriction of the Philippine Constitution, which states that "(t)he ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens."

According to the SEC, Rappler welcomed Omidyar Network—which the media organization said is "the fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam—as an investor in the online mass media outlet.

"The Foreign Equity Restriction is very clear. Anything less than One Hundred Percent (100 percent) Filipino control is a violation," the SEC decision read.

"Conversely, anything more than exactly Zero Percent (0 percent) foreign control is a violation," the SEC added.

Rappler said it will contest the decision and exhaust all legal means to do so.

“We intend to not only contest this through all legal processes available to us, but also to fight for our freedom to do journalism and for your right to be heard through an independent platform like Rappler,” it said in a separate statement posted on its website.

"Every year since we incorporated in 2012, we have dutifully complied with all SEC regulations and submitted all requirements even at the risk of exposing our corporate data to irresponsible hands with an agenda," Rappler said.

Rappler questioned the timing of the decision, labeling it as harassment.

"In a record investigation time of five months and after President Duterte himself blasted Rappler in his second SONA in July 2017, the SEC released this ruling against us," it said.

"This is pure and simple harassment the seeming coup de grace to the relentless and malicious attacks against us since 2016," it added.

During his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the issue of foreign ownership against Rappler. —NB, GMA News