Rappler files petition, asks PH Supreme Court to end Duterte’s ban on press coverage of presidential events

Rappler logo. Photo: Rappler/FB
Rappler logo. Photo: Rappler/FB

#DefendPressFreedom.

This is the hashtag that Rappler is using on social media right now, to spread awareness of the petition that the online news publication filed yesterday asking the Philippine Supreme Court to end the ban imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte that prevents their reporters from covering his events.

In the 74-page petition, Rappler states that Duterte’s coverage ban violates constitutional guarantees of press freedom, rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process, ABS-CBN News reported.

CNN Philippines reported that the petition also asserts that a free press’ ability to cover and report newsworthy events must be done independently, and that the press’ coverage of an event “cannot be dependent on what the government chooses to give to it or what the government prescribes as news.”

According to Rappler, the individuals who produced the petition are the publication’s own reporters and managers, namely: Pia Ranada, Mara Cepeda, Raymon Dullana, Franklin Cimatu, Mauricio Victa, Camille Elemia, Ralf Rivas, and Baltazar Lagsa.

The petition was filed against Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office’s media accreditation department.

It directly addresses a series of bans that began back in March 2018, when Duterte first prohibited Rappler reporter Ranada from covering all of his events held in Malacañang. A month later, the ban was extended to all Rappler reporters, including correspondents based in the provinces.

Duterte has called Rappler“fake news outlet” with stories “rife with innuendos and pregnant with falsity.”

A month after placing the individual ban on Ranada, Duterte announced that he would be banning entire news outlets like Rappler because they allegedly “twist” his statements, saying: “Do not f*** with me. The problem with these newspapers and these Rappler reporters, I say something in my speech now, tomorrow they present it differently. That’s why I’m banning them now.”

The coverage ban was imposed after Rappler’s license to do business was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in January 2018, which, according to the SEC, was allegedly a result of the publication having violated the Constitution’s requirement for all mass media to be 100 percent Filipino-owned.

The alleged violation stems from the SEC’s declaration that one of Rappler’s chief investors was a foreign company — the investment firm Omidyar Network, founded by American businessman Pierre Omidyar.

Rappler, however, said the investment firm invested using Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), which are instruments that foreign companies can buy in order to invest in Filipino companies without actually gaining ownership.

Rappler is currently involved in a series of legal battles. Another case that began last week saw the news site’s embattled Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa plead not guilty to four tax-related charges during her arraignment at the Court of Tax Appeals.

Ressa was arrested on March 29 for allegedly violating the Anti-Dummy Law, which stipulates that only Filipino nationals can have certain rights, franchises, or business privileges in the country. Ressa posted bail immediately after her arrest.

Before going to the Supreme Court, Rappler said that its managers had reached out to the government by sending letters to Executive Secretary Medialdea and Press Secretary Martin Andanar to end the coverage ban. However, they alleged that they did not receive any response from either of the two government officials.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters yesterday that Rappler has the right to file a petition before the Supreme Court. Panelo told The Philippine Daily Inquirer through a text message: “It’s a free country. We do not interfere with the judiciary.”


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