By CONG B. CORRALES
NEWS and campus press organizations here have condemned the Securities and Exchange Commission’s order to revoke online news portal Rappler’s articles of incorporation.
In a statement issued yesterday, the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines pointed out that the alleged foreign ownership of Rappler is not the real reason for shutting down the online news portal.
“The closure of Rappler came after President Rodrigo Duterte encouraged foreign investors to invest in Filipino firms, including media outfits. The singling out of Rappler betrays this tyrannical government’s real goal — muzzling of the independent press,” the statement reads.
In the same statement, the local NUJP chapter called on news media workers, both in mainstream and alternative media organizations, to hold the line and resist the “repression of truth-telling.”
Xavier University’s official publication, The Crusader, also weighed in on the issue and called on student press and media practitioners to rally Filipinos in the pursuit of truth.
“Now more than ever do we need to rally against the hands of those who try to clamp down on our throats. To silence the press is to silence the people,” The Crusader statement reads in part.
Columnist Elson Elizaga said without an independent press, the people cannot get accurate information to form intelligent decisions.
“If the government removes dissent, and stops legitimate newspapers from operating, where can it get accurate information? From its own propagandists who are used to lying? If the government gets unreliable information, how can it make correct decisions,” Elizaga rhetorically asked.
NUJP member JB Deveza, for his part, labeled the closure of Rappler as hypocrisy. “Duterte’s Cha-cha (Charter change) will allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land and public utilities, including the mass media. Who’s the hypocrite now?”
Froilan Gallardo, NUJP-Cagayan de Oro president, opined that the revocation of Rappler’s articles of incorporation showed that the Duterte administration does not hesitate to use government agencies to intimidate voices of dissent.
“It (is a) downright attempt to silence a legitimate (news) outfit (which) is good in ferreting out (the) truth against this administration,” Gallardo stated.
He said he is worried that TV network ABS-CBN may be next in this administration’s perceived attack on independent news organizations.
Gallardo pointed out that Duterte has already announced publicly that the franchise of ABS-CBN will be renewed in Congress only if it supports federalism.
“These are trying times for the Philippine media who are facing attacks, threats, and harassments from his (Duterte) minions who spawned trolls that prowl the realm of social networks spreading fake news,” Gallardo said.