The Filipino government continues to go after the news and blog organization called Rappler, one of the harshest critics of their president, Rodrigo Duterte. They began by saying that Rappler was operating in violation of the Filipino constitution, since 100% of the company needed to be based in the Philippines with no outside interests. Rappler and Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa, pushed back against these allegations, claiming they were a way to stifle the freedom of the press. Since then, the government dug deeper and has now cited criminal charges
The Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has allegedly found probable cause, bringing about the charges against Rappler. They have told Ressa that the timing of the two are coincidental, insinuating that the criminal charges have nothing to do with her criticisms of Duterte or of the controversy surrounding her, Rappler and the government’s previous efforts in shutting them down.
The initial issue came up when Ressa allowed an American investor in 2015 to have some control over Rappler, which goes against the constitution. Sources tell SOFREP that many news outlets circumvent this law in a variety of ways, since realistically there is absolutely a need to be international if these organizations don’t want to hit a glass ceiling in the Philippines. However, many use alternate methods, like proxy individuals that are from the Philippines but are controlled by outside entities.
Ressa has said that she is part of “a concerted effort to turn journalism into a crime.” Until the appeal, Rappler will continue with their day-to-day operations.
An anonymous source within Filipino media groups told SOFREP that in a way, Ressa sort of brought this upon herself. He says it is almost a blatant attempt at suppressing the freedom of the press, but that Rappler did not take any of the usual steps to defend itself — other media groups are critical to Duterte and his administration, but they “make sure their case is airtight first,” he said. “The reality is that if you’re going to take on the government here, you have to have your ducks in a row. It shouldn’t be that way and it sucks, but that’s the way that it is.”
He also says that the content and the nature of Rappler makes it an easier target — however, the principle of the thing is deeply disturbing to many, especially as the government continues to escalate in its moves against the news group.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.