Defend Press Freedom!

Community Opinion & Analysis Feb 9, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Screen-Shot-2018-02-08-at-1.43Filipino Canadian Writers and Journalists Network (FC-WJNet) Statement

We, members of the Filipino Canadian Writers and Journalists’ Network, express our serious concern over the decision of the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the registration of the online news site Rappler.

We believe the order to shut down Rappler, which has fearlessly investigated and reported Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war against drugs, is a threat to democracy and the freedom of the press.

In its ruling on January 15, the SEC, an agency of the Philippine government, said Rappler violated the constitutional rule that bars foreign ownership and control of mass media. Rappler has consistently maintained that it has two foreign investors who have no ownership stake and no control of the website. Other Philippine media entities operate on a  similar model and yet, one wonders why Rappler is being singled out.

“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,” Rappler has said in a statement.

Screen-Shot-2018-02-08-at-1.41We stand with Rappler, which has decried the SEC decision as “pure and simple harassment,” the culmination to the “relentless and malicious attacks” against it since 2016. It should be noted that Duterte first raised the issue of Rappler’s ownership in his July 2017 State of the Nation address; the day after the SEC handed down its ruling, he called Rappler a “fake news outlet.” Rappler’s founding CEO and executive director Maria Ressa has been subjected to highly-coordinated online harassment by pro-Duterte trolls and bloggers, some with direct ties to his administration.

We also note, with grave concern, a pattern of threats and curtailment of press freedom in the following: Duterte has threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN network’s franchise. Last year, he threatened to file “non-bailable” charges against the owners of the daily newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer. Fifty-four radio stations are at risk of being shut down, while the renewal of the franchise of Catholic Media Network remains pending. All these media organizations have published or produced content critical of the Duterte administration. There have been four work-related media killings under Duterte.

This pattern of harassing and labelling independent members of the press as purveyors of “fake news” is an attempt to de-legitimize and silence voices critical of Duterte and his government. We cannot allow this to happen.

We stand with Rappler and with members of the Philippine journalism community in defending the people’s right to know, to be informed and to hold their government and institutions accountable.

Defend press freedom!