HRW, De Lima slam SEC over Rappler's license revocation

"I will do everything in my power not to let Rappler go down", Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa told CNN Philippines on Tuesday.

Roque denied that it was Solicitor General Jose Calida, a close associate of Duterte, who had initiated the case against Rappler and said the regulator was already looking into its ownership before Calida took it up.

Rappler noted that the SEC's "kill order" revoking its license to operate was the first for both the commission and the Philippine media.

Rappler's journalists have pledged to continue to write and report without fear or favour, and we can offer them our unrelenting support.

Global rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday said that the order of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to shut down the Philippine-based online site Rappler Inc.is "nothing less than a politicized attack".

Duterte had to apologize to the guests at the inauguration, who include officials from Japan and the airline industry, as he addressed the issue of press freedom and the SEC decision on Rappler.

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In its order on Jauary 11, the SEC revoked Rappler's corporate registration, saying it violated constitutional provision on foreign ownership.

SEC, the commission tasked to regulate companies, specifically cancelled the multimedia news organization's license, accusing it of effecting a "deceptive scheme to circumvent the Constitution", especially by getting funds from Omidyar Network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The Omidyar Network "invests in entrepreneurs who share our commitment to advancing social good", an introductory page on its website says.

The decision to wipe Rappler's certificate of incorporation stems from the news outlet's issuing of Philippines depositary receipts allegedly sold to foreign entities. It says the arrangement was accepted by the SEC in 2015. In fact, "he was not even aware that this decision would come up", Roque said. "You think that people in government are thieves and you oligarchs, you sons of whores, you think you are clean", Duterte said in Filipino.

The SEC referred the decision to the Department of Justice "for appropriate action".

"We would like to deny ... that the state has infringed on freedom of the press of Rappler or any of its reporters", Roque said as he noted Rappler reporter Pia Ranada was present at the press briefing and was not prevented from exercising her profession as a journalist.

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Trump's apparent indifference to Duterte's attacks on the press were thrown into relief during a trip to the Philippines in November, when he laughed after Duterte joked that journalists were spies.

Duterte said some oligarchs and rich families were using their media companies to wield power and influence and to shield themselves from prosecution.

He said if Duterte had wanted to silence media critics, he could easily have launched a crackdown - a statement that did not sit well with free press and rights advocacy groups.

Many found it absurd that the government issued a statement celebrating the "robust" press freedom in the country on the same day when Rappler was ordered to cease operations.

He added that Herbosa is respected among her peers in the law profession, and can not be influenced into making a decision that is against the law. The SEC's Memorandum Circular No. 8, Series of 2013, or the "Guidelines on Compliance with the Filipino-Foreign Ownership Requirements" had been criticized in a petition filed with the Supreme Court to have "tailor-made" the rules to allow PLDT to skirt the law limiting foreign ownership of public utilities.

While it is a democracy, the Philippines' media is classified by Freedom House as only "partly free".

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