Philippines set to water down free speech protections in constitution


Apart from the corporate sanction, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre told reporters Wednesday government prosecutors were also studying the possible filing of criminal charges against Rappler officials for violating an 81-year-old anti-dummy law.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said earlier on Tuesday that by selling PDR to those entities, Rappler had given foreigners "the power to negatively control the company" without them holding any of its shares. Read the SEC decision on Rappler here.

In fact, the PDRs have been regularly used by Philippine entrepreneurs to raise much needed capital from overseas without violating strict constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership.

Brauchli is managing partner and co-founder of NBM, a global venture-capital firm supporting independent media, founded by a triumvirate of top journalists from around the world.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Ressa called it a "war of attrition". We're forged in fire.

In its order, the SEC said Rappler had come up with a "deceptive scheme to circumvent" the ownership rules, an allegation that the online publication rejected and vowed to appeal.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Prelim Kine said the SEC's attack on Rappler is "nothing less than a politicized attack on a critical media voice in the Philippines using the pretext of alleged foreign ownership", he said.

Following this claim, Rappler responded: "PDRs do not indicate ownership".

Omidyar Network was formed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, while prominent American journalists operate North Base Media.

In a statement on Monday, Rappler called the decision the "first of its kind in history - both for the Commission and for Philippine media".

Ressa worked at CNN for nearly two decades, where she built connections in the global media community that helped her access funding to sustain Rappler's operations.

Mr Duterte also threatened to block leading television broadcaster ABS-CBN's application to renew its operating franchise, a permit that requires congressional approval, over what he saw was lopsided coverage of his campaign.

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"I'd like to think that I'm a Filipino with a global view and a global landscape", she said.

"He did not like the fact that Rappler was saying this is a result of the president's dislike for Rappler, of course not, he had nothing to do with this decision".

Third, its web audience and brand renown are sure to have surged, making Rappler even more influential and, for its investors, more valuable.

The ruling followed setbacks suffered by other Philippine news organisations which have criticised Duterte's war on drugs that has killed almost 4,000 suspects. Rappler's unique visitors reach almost 400,000 daily and 8.5 million monthly, and the group's employee count has risen tenfold to over 100.

During her speech, Ressa pointed to an ongoing wave of vitriol directed at Filipino journalists by bloggers and social media commentators for reporting critically of Duterte and his internationally-condemned war on drugs.

"Since you are a fake news outlet then I am not surprised that your articles are also fake", Duterte told reporters, referring to the news site. We can debate now.

"The decision, which is tantamount to killing the online news site, sends a chilling effect to media organizations in the country", The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said.

In his state of the nation address in July a year ago, Duterte directly warned the site, erroneously claiming that Rappler had violated the 1987 Constitution because the organization was "fully owned" by Americans.

Roque has framed the moves against Rappler as a lawful response to violations of constitutional provisions, not as an attack against the news media.

Roque made this statement as he stressed that the SEC decision to revoke Rappler's incorporation papers was not an issue of press freedom.

Authorities said the media site, which has two USA investors, had violated a clause in the constitution that limits media ownership to Philippine citizens. Take the tale now making headlines not just here but across the globe about Rappler being shut down by the government.