“We are dismayed to learn that officials in at least eight government agencies have attacked Rappler in what would appear to be a coordinated attempt to undermine both the legitimacy and integrity of one of the country’s leading online news sources,” said the Board. It went on to express its concern that the attacks against Rappler “appear to be in direct retaliation for its on-going critical coverage of the policies and actions of the government,” particularly its response to the country’s widespread drugs problem, law and order issues, and human rights concerns.
There are a number of open investigations and court decisions pending that place an inordinate amount of pressure on Rappler, its staff and management.
At the beginning of this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the license of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation, claiming foreign ownership in violation of the Philippines constitution. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into Rappler's supposed violation of the Anti-Dummy Law. The National Bureau of Investigation is also pursuing a cyber libel complaint, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue has filed a tax evasion case versus Rappler Holdings Corp.
Rappler vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
The Board of WAN-IFRA also acknowledged that these judicial proceedings come on the back of a sustained, highly targeted and seemingly orchestrated campaign of online abuse directed at Rappler, its staff, and in particular co-founder, CEO and Executive Editor, Maria Ressa.
The Board denounced all attacks against journalists, “in whatever form they come online and off,” and called on the government of the Philippines to do more “to discourage the harassment of journalists – particularly in the online space.” It condemned the gender-based abuse of Maria Ressa and called on the authorities “to make clear their condemnation of all forms of sexual harassment and demonstrate a clear commitment to doing more to eradicate it from society.”
The Board of WAN-IFRA also urged President Duterte to lift the ban on Rappler correspondents reporting from the presidential palace and official events, and “to embrace a vocal, critical media as a necessary ingredient of a democratic, pluralistic society.”
The full text of the resolution can be viewed here.
During its meeting in Estoril, the Board of WAN-IFRA also passed four other press freedom resolutions, calling on global solidarity for media facing extreme challenges in Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan, and for greater efforts to improve physical safety and digital security for journalists worldwide.