Journalists up in arms to protect press freedom

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Journalists launched a Black Friday Protest to protect press freedom in the country.

Last Friday, January 19, 2018  journalists,bloggers and media workers mostly based in Metro Manila gathered together on Tomas Morato Quezon City to denounce the recent decision  of the  Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC revoked the corporate registration of the Rappler last January 11 for reportedly allowing a foreign company to invest in their corporation.

The decision earned the ire of the journalists, they don’t view it as a legal battle  for Rappler only but a  curtailment of press freedom.

The gathering was led by the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP)

Rappler maintains the investment did not constitute equity nor give the investors veto on editorial matters, as it vowed to legally fight the decision.

The Philippine Constitution only allows 100 percent Filipino ownership when it comes to media entities.

Journalists most of them wearing black, gathered to protest the ruling as they perceived the ruling, a prelude to the dark age of the Philippine media.

The protesters carried banners saying “fight the Duterte dictatorship” and “defend press freedom”.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)  calls on every media organization regardless of its political and economic interests to explain these issues clearly and to present them in the context of business practice that has been approved by the SEC.

CMFR calls urgently on every Filipino who values free expression, to stand and unite with Rappler.

The NUJP is a joint statement said “We find it disturbing that the Philippines is now joining a trend in the region to use legal and technical bases to shut down critical media organizations or jail journalists, following the examples of Cambodia (2017), Myanmar (2014, 2017) and Thailand (2017). In most countries in the region, repressive media laws tend to control what journalists are able to report. It is regrettable that the Philippines, which has had one of the least censored press regimes in the region, is now following these countries to repress independent journalism.”

Photo from NPC wensite

Ironically, the  National Press Club of the Philippines said the  legal battle of  Rappler do not constitute media repression since there are many other media firms “whose operations have remained free.”

 In a statement released last Tuesday, January 16, 2018,  the press club agreed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ruled that Rappler violated constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media companies in the Philippines.

Paul Gutierrez, the NPC President  in the same statement stated “[T]he SEC finding is quite clear: that Rappler Inc., has indeed violated the law when it allowed the entry of foreign investors and also allowed, specifically, Omidyar Network Fund LLC, to have control on ‘corporate matters’ of Rappler based on its own submissions to the SEC.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque  cited the Black Friday protest as a demonstration “that freedom is alive and democracy is alive in the Philippines”.

Apart from the loss of its corporate licence, Rappler’s chief executive Maria Ressa faced a second challenge after the national Bureau of Investigation summoned her to answer a cybercrime complaint.

The cybercrime charge against Rappler stemmed after a businessman accused Rappler of libel for reporting in 2012 that he lent a luxury van to then-Supreme Court chief Renato Corona who was later impeached for failing to declare his assets.

Ressa and Rappler employees vow to put up a legal fight against what they described as suppression of Press Freedom..-Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.ph

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