The Filipino government has threatened to shut down a leading news outlet and opinion blog using a law from their constitution. The news group, Rappler, is one of the Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte‘s harshest critics, and many are concerned that this is a blatant restriction of the freedom of the press.
The Filipino government has revoked the company’s certificate of incorporation, which is the document that allows them to operate as a business within the Philippines. Essentially, according to their constitution, a business in the Philippines must be owned completely by Filipinos. Rappler has contested these charges, and the decision has not yet been made final.
Not only have they begun to try to shut down the business in the Philippines by legal, business means, but they have also launched an investigation into criminal activity. However, the circumstances or evidence of any crimes committed have not been made public.
Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa, told ABC’s The World Program that, “The Secretary of Justice’s statement is quite shocking because he also said that he had told Reuters and other reporters that he was willing to go … beyond the constitutionality of those Philippines Depository Receipts (PDRs), anything that they could [to] file a criminal case against Rappler.” Many have regarded this as a clear vendetta against the news outlet, and Ressa continues to reiterate the fact that this is a direct threat to the freedom of the press in the Philippines.
Much of this was brought about when Rigoberto Tiglao from the Manila Times had also been outspoken against Rappler, and he pressed the government toward action, citing these violations of their constitution. Since then, there has debate regarding whether or not this is ethical, or even lawful.
Duterte said to Rappler, “Since you are a fake news outlet, then I am not surprised that your articles are also fake … We can debate now. Tell me where is our lies and I’ll tell you where are yours. You’re not only throwing toilet paper. You’re throwing shit at us. You have gone too far.”
Again, there are those who believe the shutting down of the company simply follows the laws and constitution of the country. However, the skepticism and criticisms come as those pushing against Rappler tend to be either competitors or supporters of Duterte, and even the government itself. Freedom of the press is not necessarily a given in many countries in southeast Asia, and threats to such freedoms are a quick way to stir up controversy.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.