Philippines orders news site Rappler to close as Nobel prize-winner Maria Ressa vows to fight on

The Philippine government is affirming a previous order to shut down the news website Rappler, according to its co-founder, the Nobel peace prize winner Maria Ressa.

Rappler, which has been praised for exposing abuses of power and growing authoritarianism under the outgoing Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has faced a series of legal charges over recent years.

The latest decision comes just days before Duterte stands down and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late dictator, takes office.

Speaking at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Honolulu, Ressa said the Securities and Exchange Commission, a key business regulator, had affirmed its earlier decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler.

“Part of the reason I didn’t have much sleep last night is because we essentially got a shutdown order,” Ressa told the audience.

“We’re not shutting down,” she said. “Well, I’m not supposed to say that.”

A copy of the order, dated 28 June 2022, made online by the SEC, said: “The Company Registration and Monitoring Department is hereby directed to effect the revocation of the Certificates of Incorporation of Rappler, Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corp. in the records and system of the Commission.”

The media has faced intense pressure under the Duterte’s presidency. During his term, the country’s biggest broadcaster, ABS-CBN, was ordered off air, and Ressa has faced a number of legal charges that could lead to decades in prison.

Rappler said the decision “effectively confirmed the shutdown” of the company and vowed to appeal, describing the proceedings as “highly irregular”.

“We have discussed all possible scenarios with Rapplers (staff) since SEC issued its first order in 2018,” Glenda Gloria, executive editor and co-founder of the site, told reporters, in comments quoted by AFP.

“Nothing ever sufficiently prepares an organization for a ‘kill’ order.”

Ressa, who is also a US citizen, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, were awarded the Nobel peace prize in October for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression”.

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