It was a shock to learn yesterday, Monday, that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the corporate registration of online media platform Rappler. If the decision is not reversed by the SEC on appeal or stopped by the Supreme Court in the next couple of weeks, this credible and trailblazing news organization formed around five years ago will be forced to close shop or go underground.
Malacañang has taken a step to deny it has anything to do with the SEC ruling. With all due respect to the SEC and Malacañang, we take this denial with obvious skepticism. President Rodrigo Duterte, in recent instances, had openly attacked Rappler for its coverage of the administration’s anti-drugs war, as he did other major press organizations such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN. Clearly, there was a game plan against Rappler and the others, and the SEC move was an attempt at a checkmate.
The administration’s angry intolerance of independent media, mainstream notwithstanding, has cast a dangerous political environment for free press ever since the President’s rants. The SEC decision against Rappler is a coup de grâce that seeks to stymie all media.
The matter of Rappler’s corporate set up and business model are issues only the SEC and the courts can resolve. Yet the manner the SEC has gone after Rappler for supposedly violating the constitutional provision against foreign ownership of a national media entity was rapid, arbitrary and with extreme prejudice. No amount of casual justification can hide the fact that this decision was not anything but a casual day at the SEC offices.
Rappler is an independent media entity practicing the highest standards of journalism. It is run not by foreigners but by Filipino journalists of sterling integrity and professionalism. It is a trailblazing idea on new journalism in the era of the internet, an inspiring take on democratic and free press in the age of cyberspace.
It’s misfortune is on how it is being misunderstood by the present administration and the political supporters of the President.
Palawan News, fledgling and provincial as we are, continue to regard credible media organizations like Rappler as benchmarks for independent, professional journalism. The SEC move to strike them down is a cold and chilling water doused over the noble concept of a free press.
As we follow the outcome of appeal on the SEC’s decision, with can only make our sincerest appeal to our country’s corporate regulators to allow fair play and take an apolitical stand on this matter, and for our courts to act judiciously and independently.
In a lot of ways, we all are Rappler, in how we strive for truth, fairness and justice through journalism.