Business & Economy

Philippines orders closure of critical news outlet

By Federico Segarra

Manila, Jun 29 (EFE).- Philippines authorities on Wednesday ordered to shut down Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa’s investigative news website, Rappler.

The move comes on the eve of the swearing-in of the country’s new president, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Although the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to revoke the news outlet’s license is not directly related to Bongbong or outgoing Rodrigo Duterte, Rappler had extensively reported on the latter’s war on drugs, as well as the president-elect’s election campaign

The commission, however, shut down the news site for allegedly violating rules on the foreign ownership of media outlets.

“We will continue to work and to do business as usual,” Ressa told reporters.

“We will follow the legal process and continue to stand up for our rights. We will hold the line,” she added.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, tells Efe over the phone that there is no evidence that the commission’s decision is a political message from Duterte a day after the end of his term but that the case has been going on for years.

Several members of the commission were appointed by Duterte, he says.

During Duterte’s six-year term, the press has been subject to significant pressure, including legal proceedings against Rappler and Ressa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in October for his journalistic work in the Philippines against the abuse of power and misinformation.

Bongbong will take his oath of office on Thursday in a ceremony at the Malacañang Palace and the National Museum, but there is not enough information on his position on human rights and freedom of the press.

Ressa and Rappler journalists led the fight against the massive disinformation campaign, which, according to experts, rigged the electoral campaign of the May 9 elections that saw Marcos Jr. garner more than 58% of the votes.

During the campaign, Marcos Jr. avoided giving interviews at all costs, and kept a low profile, so his stance on the attack on the freedom of the press and the extrajudicial killings is unknown.

Experts believe that Marcos Jr. will be more closely watched than his predecessor, due to his father, who had thousands tortured and more than 3,000 dead in extrajudicial killings, many of whom were students.

Liberal candidate Leni Robredo, heir to the movement that ousted the Marcos in 1986, could not help but admit the overwhelming electoral defeat despite having mobilized hundreds of thousands of people during her campaign.

In addition, experts consider that Duterte’s iron fist approach has been the ideal scenario to pave the way for the return of Marcos Jr to Malacañang, where his family fled by helicopter after a revolution 36 years ago.EFE


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