Philippines Media Regulator Orders Maria Ressa’s Rappler To Shut Down

A Philippine regulator has again ordered Rappler, a news website founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa, to shut down.

The news organization, known for being one of the country’s few outlets to publicly oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, said it would challenge the order in court and refused to shut down.

Speaking at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Honolulu, Ms. Ressa said the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) had upheld its earlier decision to revoke Rappler’s operating license.

The organization’s CEO and founder said Rappler would appeal the PSEC’s order “especially since the proceedings were highly irregular.”

“What does this mean? We have existing legal remedies all the way up to the highest court of the land. It is business as usual for us since in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval,” she wrote in an internal statement to the staff.

Ms. Ressa, a former CNN bureau chief and TIME Person of the Year, also spoke to reporters about the shutdown order on Wednesday.

Rappler will continue to work and do business as usual, she stated, adding: “We will follow the legal process and continue to stand up for our rights. We will hold the line.”

According to Ms. Ressa, the ruling makes the site no longer able to count on the rule of law. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate also described the PSEC’s decision as the “last blow” in the government’s six-year campaign against the investigative media site’s hard-hitting reporting against Mr. Duterte.

When announcing the order, the PSEC said it had upheld the decision to revoke Rappler’s license to operate after an appeal on the grounds that the company’s financing model was unconstitutional.

Rappler has been engulfed in a legal battle since 2018 after the regulator issued an order invalidating the news organization’s credentials. The PSEC has argued that the company had sold control to an international entity, violating Philippine’s strict foreign ownership laws.

In 2015, the Rappler received funding from the Omidyar Network philanthropic investment firm. However, it denied ceding foreign control and donated the investment to local staff to show that it did not have a majority stake in the business.

The order against Rappler comes shortly before Duterte leaves office and is succeeded by his ally, newly elected Ferninand Marcos Jr.