Months after winning a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to "expose abuse of power, use of violence, and growing authoritarianism" in the Philippines, Maria Ressa says local authorities have ordered her Rappler news site to shut down. Ressa, a former CNN bureau chief and Time Person of the Year, said Wednesday that the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission had upheld a 2018 ruling to revoke the operating license of Rappler after what Ressa called "highly irregular" appeal proceedings, per the BBC. Rappler is one of the only news outlets in the country that is critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's government.
The Philippine SEC in 2018 found Rappler's parent company "sold control to foreigners" in defiance of the country's ban on foreign ownership in mass media, then "created an elaborate scheme" to cover it up, per CNN. Rappler did receive funding from Pierre Omiydar’s Omiydar Network in 2015. But it denied it gave control to foreigners and later donated the funds to staff members, as the BBC reports. The Philippine SEC this week "affirmed and reiterated its earlier finding" that Rappler had given a foreign entity control. "This is intimidation, these are political tactics and we refuse to succumb to them," Ressa said Wednesday.
Human Rights Watch said it was a "spurious" move to "shut up Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, and shut down Rappler, by hook or by crook." The ruling comes days before Duterte is to be replaced by ally Ferdinand Marcos Jr.—the son and namesake of a former dictator "who persecuted journalists, human rights activists, and political opposition" over decades, the BBC reports. Regardless, Ressa said Rappler would not throw in the towel. "We have existing legal remedies all the way up to the highest court of the land," said the journalist, per the AP. "It is business as usual for us since in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval." (Ressa is appealing a six-year prison sentence for libel in a case that supporters argue is politically motivated.)