Authorities in the Philippines have ordered journalist and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa’s independent news organization, Rappler, to shut down, in another blow to press freedom in the country.
Ressa is a staunch critic of Rodrigo Duterte, the former Philippine president, and Rappler gained prominence for its unflinching coverage of Duterte and his brutal war on drugs.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for their efforts to protect freedom of expression and expose the abuse of power and the growing authoritarianism in the country, according to BBC.
The Wednesday June 26 order, which came from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), came a day before Duterte left office and president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of a former dictator, began his term.
Activists, journalists and rights groups have voiced concerns Marcos Jr.’s presidency could worsen the freedom of speech in the country.
“We will continue to do our jobs. Our reporters will continue to hold the line, will continue to report, and will continue to demand that access is there,” Ressa told a media briefing following the decision.
The SEC had said that Rappler had violated restrictions on foreign ownership in mass media because it had accepted funding from Omidyar Network, the philanthropic arm of e-Bay founder Pierre Omidyar, according to Reuters.
This had given Omidyar Network “control over the media organization,” the SEC said in statement, according to the Guardian.
Rappler said Omidyar Network was a silent investor that did not have any control over its day-to-day operations.
Ressa said they would challenge the order, adding that the SEC decision was “intimidation”.
Human Rights Watch called the order “an effort to shut up Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, and shut down Rappler, by hook or by crook.”
The Philippines ranked 147 out of 180 countries on Reporters without Borders’s Press Freedom Index in 2021.