The Securities and Exchange Commission upheld the order to shut down Rappler Inc. at the same time as the National Telecommunications Commission moved to restrict airtime deals.
These moves also came just days after the NTC released a directive to take down several websites, including two progressive news outlets.
These developments also happened ahead of the last day of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte and the inauguration of his successor President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on June 30.
SEC vs Rappler Inc.
During the East West Center conference in Hawaii, Rappler CEO and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa said that the SEC affirmed its 2018 decision to order the shutdown of Rappler Inc.
Ressa’s statement was also uploaded on the EWC’s official Twitter account.
“Last night, we essentially got a shut-down order. Our lawyers informed of this ruling that effectively confirmed the shutdown of Rappler,” Ressa said.
She, however, noted that their company is set to make an appeal to this decision.
“We are entitled to appeal this decision and we will do so, especially since the proceedings were highly irregular,” Ressa said.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner and journalist @mariaressa shared her own personal statement at IMC 2022, after finding out last night that the #Philippine government has ordered her news organization @rapplerdotcom to shut down. #EWCMedia pic.twitter.com/eU0m2jw10K
— EWC Seminars (@EWCSeminars) June 29, 2022
In 2018, the SEC issued a decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and the Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC), citing alleged constitutional violations.
NTC’s restrictions vs airtime deals
Based on reports, the NTC issued a memorandum on June 23 that restricted radio and television stations from selling more than 50% of daily airtime to block-timers.
According to the memo, signed by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, all radio and television broadcast entities are required to submit block-time agreements for the commission review before going ahead with their implementation.
“Authorized radio and television broadcast entities, its management and board of directors should be solidary liable with any violation committed by the block timer arising from the content or programs under the block time agreements,” the NTC said.
While the broadcast giant was not mentioned in the order, it was released as ABS-CBN is exploring more opportunities to air their shows and movies on free TV.
Some of ABS-CBN’s shows and movies are currently being aired on free TV via A2Z Channel 11 (formerly Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc.) and TV5.
Last June, the broadcast giant was also reportedly in talks for a merger with MediaQuest Holdings, the Manny Pangilinan-backed media company.
NTC vs news websites
Last week, the NTC blocked public access to at least 30 websites, including alternative media Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly.
So far, these websites can no longer be accessed via public browsers.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and local and international journalism organizations denounced the NTC and the NSA over such a directive against these online platforms.
🇵🇭#Philippines: RSF condemns the censorship targeting the news sites @bulatlat and @pinoyweekly since 17 June, under the pretext of absurd accusations of “communist terrorism”, and calls for their immediate restoration. https://t.co/nZEWyTNgQ6
— RSF (@RSF_inter) June 27, 2022
Reactions from journalists, Filipinos
Veteran journalist and educator Danilo Arao saw the recent developments in the Philippine press as a form of media repression.
“MEDIA REPRESSION: SEC affirms its decision to revoke Rappler’s certificates of incorporation. NTC wants to regulate block time arrangements of broadcast stations. NTC orders the blocking of certain websites, including Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly. Reminder: This is just Wednesday,” Arao tweeted.
Veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona said described the recent developments as “very tough times for Philippine media.”
Some Filipinos were more scathing in their criticisms. They deemed these developments as attacks against the news media.
“NTC discrediting media over orders of website blocking and SEC declaration in revoking Rappler’s certificates of incorporation is nothing but a clear SUPPRESSION and coming back of the HORRORS to the freedom of the PRESS and SPEECH!” a user tweeted.
Veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona also brought up Duterte’s admission that he used his presidential powers against ABS-CBN.
The outgoing chief executive bared this during the oath-taking ceremony of newly elected local government officials of Davao City on June 27.
“I used the presidential powers to tell Congress that you are dealing with scoundrels and if you continue to kowtow with them, kawawa ang Pilipino,” he was quoted as saying in a report.
“Kaya tinira ko talaga sila,” the president also said in the same speech, referring to the supposed unpaid taxes of ABS-CBN, which were already addressed before.
Varona was more optimistic in her view of the situation of the Philippine press.
“Very tough times for Philippine media. But we’ve been there before. We’re still here. Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years. If we are brave, it is because our people are brave,” she tweeted.