from this bullshit department
We have written several times about Rappler, the highly successful Philippine investigative news organization founded by journalist Maria Ressa over the past few years. Rappler was highly critical of the Rodrigo Duterte administration, but his reporting was solid. In 2018, the Philippine SEC announced that it would shut down Rappler, in a move that was clearly political retaliation for Rappler’s reporting.
What followed was a slew of trumped up accusations of tax evasion, cyber defamation and nonsense claiming that Rappler was violating the constitution of the Philippines by holding foreign property. Rappler has no foreign ownership. He received a grant from Omidyar Network, a philanthropic group that grants grants for many fine works around the world. And, when it first happened, Rappler cleared it with the SEC and got it approved.
But… none of that seems to matter. Even with Duterte leaving office and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. taking over, it doesn’t look like there will be much of a difference. The SEC ordered a complete shutdown of the company, again due to alleged foreign ownership.
In an order issued Wednesday, the Philippine SEC “confirmed and reiterated its earlier finding” from 2018 that Rappler is a “mass media entity” and that it had granted control to a foreign entity “through the certificate of Philippine deposit issued to Omidyar Network”.
“Rappler and RHC willfully violated the constitution … when they granted control to Omidyar,” the order said. “Considering the seriousness and seriousness of the offence, and that it is no less the constitution which has been violated, this commission thus finds and retains that the penalty of dismissal … must be affirmed and maintained.”
It’s worth noting (as we pointed out four years ago when all this nonsense started) that the constitution of the Philippines includes the protection of free speech, their 4th amendment, which reads quite similarly to our 1st amendment.
No laws will be passed restricting freedom of speech, expression or the press, or the right of people to peacefully assemble and seek redress from the government.
In the United States, such a blatant political shutdown of a media organization would raise serious 1st Amendment issues. We hope it will be the same in the Philippines.
Of course, one thing that’s somewhat ironic (or, perhaps, unfortunate is the better term) is that over the past few years, as Ressa fought for her own free speech rights, she became increasingly hostile to the free speech rights of others. . I have long respected Ressa for her fearless reporting, but she has become an outspoken critic of free speech online.
As the government prepared to shut down her business, Ressa gave an interview to Axios, where she essentially trashed the free speech rights of the riff raff public, more or less arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to talk on social media.
…these platforms are biased against the facts. You don’t get the facts. It’s toxic sludge. Social media promotes anger, hate, conspiracy theories. There is violence…
She also trotted out a variation on the “fire in a theater” line, which is the would-be censor’s favorite line:
There’s a reason why when news outlets were gatekeepers, we had standards and transparency. Unchecked free speech is like a person shouting fire and there is no fire. Freedom of expression at all costs has a cost.
It’s really tragic. Rappler exists because the Internet has allowed it to exist. This has allowed him to build a team of world-class investigative journalists who have done an incredible job. And after spending all those years battling the government to try to silence her, you’d think she’d be more open to supporting the freedom of speech of others, including the power of intermediaries to facilitate speech.
Yes, some might say she highlights nonsense that gets posted on social media – but THAT’S EXACTLY how her critics trash her own work, insisting it’s all lies and nonsense, “full of falsehoods” and that gives them justification to shut it down. It is a shame that she is so quick to support this reasoning which simply allows others in power to silence critical voices.
Ressa does not deserve what his government did to him. But, it would be nice if she recognized how she helps to enable more such actions by justifying the silence of speech.
Filed Under: bongbong marcos, freedom of speech, maria ressa, philippines, rodrigo duterte