• Ressa said Rappler’s legal counsel will appeal the shutdown order
  • Duterte has called Rappler a “fake news outlet” in the past
  • Ressa predicted earlier this year that a Marcos win could spur more disinformation

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa said that the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has upheld its decision to shut down her online news organization. The journalist said her team will appeal the decision.

“Part of the reason I didn’t have much sleep last night is because we essentially got a shutdown order,” Ressa said while speaking at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Hawaii on Tuesday, Associated Press reported. “We’re not shutting down,” Ressa told the audience, adding that Rappler’s legal team is looking to appeal the order.

In a statement released at the conference, Rappler said that “the proceedings were highly irregular.” An excerpt from an internal announcement at Rappler also noted that “it is business as usual for us since in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval.”

The Philippine SEC has since posted on its official website, revealing the contents of its 12-page order that stated the agency was “revoking the Certificates of Incorporation of Petitioners Rappler, Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation.”

The SEC first ordered the cancelation of Rappler’s certificate of incorporation in 2018, accusing the news organization of allowing foreign investor Omidyar Network to hold Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), which are financial instruments that accrue interest and can also be sold for profit.

At that time, the SEC accused Rappler of violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership in relation to mass media. Rappler appealed the said SEC ruling but to no avail, CNN Philippines reported.

Rappler is known to have been critical of outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. He earlier denied having any influence on the 2018 SEC order, Bloomberg reported. On the other hand, Duterte branded the news organization as a “fake news outlet.” Duterte has also said he wanted to “kill journalism” in the country, the New York Times reported.

Duterte has also been critical of journalists questioning potential human rights violations during his administration’s war on drugs. Rappler published extensive write-ups on the war on drugs in the Philippines, BBC News reported.

It was around 2018 when Duterte announced that he banned reporters under Rappler from covering his official activities. That same year, Ressa was among the Time’s “Person of the Year.”

Last year, Duterte was included by international watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its list of “press freedom predators.”

Duterte will be replaced by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. after the latter is inaugurated as the new President of the Philippines. Ressa said earlier this year that should Marcos Jr. win the presidency, it could trigger more disinformation, Bloomberg reported.

Ressa was convicted of cyber libel in 2020 and has been out on bail since. She is also faced with several other criminal charges in the Philippines, which she said have been politically motivated following Rappler’s criticism of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (pictured after her arrest in 2019) says her Nobel Peace Prize is for 'all journalists around the world'
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (pictured after her arrest in 2019) says her Nobel Peace Prize is for 'all journalists around the world' AFP / TED ALJIBE