Philippines orders shutdown of Nobel Peace laureate Maria Ressa’s investigative news site Rappler

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Filipino journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa announced on Tuesday that the Philippines government is shutting down the investigative news site Rappler.

The news site, which gained popularity because of its investigations into president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, was co-founded by Ms Ressa in 2012.

While speaking at an event at East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Honolulu on Tuesday, Ms Ressa said that “part of the reason I didn’t have much sleep last night is because we essentially got a shutdown order”.

The Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) affirmed its earlier decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler, the Nobel Laureate said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Rappler media said: “The SEC’s kill order revoking Rappler’s license to operate is the first of its kind in history – both for the Commission and for Philippine media.”

“What this means for you, and for us, is that the Commission is ordering us to close shop, to cease telling you stories, to stop speaking truth to power, and to let go of everything that we have built – and created – with you since 2012,” it added.

The organisation has said that it will contest this order.

“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 added: “We’ve been through a lot together, through good and bad – sharing stories, building communities, inspiring hope, uncovering wrongdoing, battling trolls, exposing the fake. We will continue bringing you the news, holding the powerful to account for their actions and decisions, calling attention to government lapses that further disempower the disadvantaged.”

Last year, Ms Ressa became the first ever Filipino and the first working journalist in more than 80 years to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, the Philippines SEC said in a statement that the decision to revoke the company’s licence to operate had been upheld following an appeal as the commission and courts had concluded that Rappler’s funding model was unconstitutional.

The regulator first issued an order against Rappler in 2018, invalidating the news organisation’s credentials because, it said, the company had sold control of itself to a foreign entity in breach of foreign ownership restrictions in Philippines media.

Ms Ressa said: “We have been harassed, this is intimidation, these are political tactics and we refuse to succumb to them.”

Human Rights Watch said the move by the SEC was an effort to “shut up” the Nobel laureate and shut down Rappler “by hook or by crook”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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