Philippines news site Rappler said this morning that it is free to continue operations for now, despite the country's Securities and Exchange Commission ruling that its license should be revoked.
Observers worldwide have decried the move as a politically motivated execution by president Rodrigo Duterte, who has been critical of Rappler following its reporting on one of his signature policies, the country's drug war.
The publication reported that it received confirmation late Monday that it won't be shut down immediately. "Rappler can exhaust legal remedies," the publication quoted a text message from SEC spokesperson Armand Pan as saying. "[They can] appeal to the Court of Appeals within 15 days. Meanwhile, SEC decision is not final and executory."
The SEC decision, issued on January 11, hinges on the nation's constitution, which declares that "ownership and management" of mass media must be limited to citizens of the Philippines. The SEC holds that the requirement is absolute and that the publisher in effect sold equity to foreign investors through a derivative. “The issue at hand is the compliance of 100% Filipino ownership and management of mass media. It is not about infringement on the freedom of the press,” a Duterte spokesman said in a statement Monday.
The publication argued in an article published yesterday that it has been transparent about its investors and "acted in good faith".
"The SEC’s kill order revoking Rappler’s license to operate is the first of its kind in history—both for the Commission and for Philippine media," Rappler wrote. It called the move "pure and simple harassment, the seeming coup de grace to the relentless and malicious attacks against us since 2016."
This decision didn’t follow due process. Fast-tracked, it is political in nature. The severe penalties remind you of the context in PH today. It cannot be seen in a vacuum. https://t.co/EDPnNS9whs— Maria Ressa (@mariaressa) January 16, 2018
Reaction within and outside the Philippines is predictably polarised. While groups such as Amnesty International condemned the action as an attack on the free press, a competitor opined that the decision made sense, and that Rappler was "already in dire financial straits" anyway.