Filipino bloggers are rallying to defend press freedom against moves by Rodrigo Duterte's administration to shut down Philippine-based news website Rappler.
On January 11, the Securities and Exchange Commission cancelled the company’s license to operate as a business, claiming that it has violated rules against foreign ownership of media companies.
Although Rappler has received some financial support the US-based Omidyar Network, it is fully is owned and operated by Filipinos who reside in the Philippines. Nevertheless, President Duterte insinuated in his July 2017 State of the Nation Address that Rappler is “fully owned by Americans.”
Supporters held “Black Friday” protests on January 19, condemning the attacks against the besieged news site and demanding stronger protections for media freedom. Members of mainstream media, campus journalists, activists, and press freedom advocates gathered in Quezon City and Bacolod City to raise their voices.
Filipino youth defending press freedom #BlackFridayForPressFreedom pic.twitter.com/0WYB1TkYsw
— Therese Reyes (@theresereyes_) January 19, 2018
Protests at Timog and Katipunan erupted today as a sign of protest against the attacks of the government on press freedom. #DefendPressFreedom pic.twitter.com/abPdGmuueM
— Ice Punzalan #JunkTRAIN (@icepnzln) January 19, 2018
Bacolod media, groups join call for press freedom#BlackFridayForPressFreedom pic.twitter.com/OWqs9v9BRE
— Marchel Espina (@marchelespina) January 19, 2018
On the same week the SEC revoked Rappler's license, the country's National Bureau of Investigation also summoned company CEO Maria Ressa, along with a reporter and one of the company's corporate owners. The investigation is the result of a claim by businessman Wilfredo Keng, who alleges that Rappler committed “cyber libel” in a 2012 article that showed evidence that Keng had been involved in human trafficking and drug smuggling. Rappler has vowed to challenge these claims against the company.
On January 19, Filipino bloggers collectively wrote and signed a statement expressing their commitment to freedom of expression, and their solidarity with Rappler. Initiated by Mom Blogger Noemi Dado, the statement is part of an outpouring of support by Filipino social media users and netizens for Rappler and in defense of press freedom.
More bloggers are invited to join the signatories by signing up at http://bit.ly/bloggersforfreedom. Here is the statement's text and initial signatories:
Statement: Bloggers for Freedom
We concerned Filipino bloggers stand for the rights to free expression and to free speech. And our first responsibility is to protect these rights.
We thus stand with Rappler, its right to exist, the rights of its working journalists and contributors, and the rights of its community of readers.
We stand against moves to silence and scare journalists, bloggers and media practitioners just because the President and his ardent supporters dislike their news and views.
Now is a time for making choices amid battles between truth and lies, debate and dissonance, democracy and dictatorship.
We sign our names here to tell everyone we have made a choice. We are bloggers for freedom.
Myk Mykapalaran Cruz
James Romer V. Velina
Mc Richard Viana Paglicawan
Saul de Jesus
Mark Will Mayo Magallanes
Rhadem Camlian Morados
Czarina Maye Noche
John Clifford Sibayan
Inday Espina Varona
Eugene Alvin Villar
Reynaldo Pagsolingan Jr.
Renz Daniel de Vera
Alfred John Tayona
John Paul Manahan
John Phillips Bengero
Leo D. Cloma
Alan de Luzuriaga
Acielle Angeli Garcera
John Philip C. Bravo
Michelle Ressa Aventajado
Didi Tiu Tang
Note: Filipino Global Voices community members Karlo Mongaya, Julius Rocas and Mong Palatino (Global Voices’ Southeast Asia editor) are signatories of the statement.