Maria Ressa defies Philippine government order, says its “business as usual” for Rappler news site

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Philippine journalist and Nobel Prize laureate Maria Ressa refused to shut down her award-winning news website Rappler on Wednesday, defying an order from authorities to halt operations. It’s the latest twist in a years-long battle over free speech between Rappler and Ressa and the government of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We will continue to work and to do business as usual,” Ressa said Wednesday, hours after the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission ruled to revoke Rappler’s operating license. “We will follow the legal process and continue to stand up for our rights. We will hold the line.”

Rappler’s reporting has long been critical of government corruption and incompetence. It’s especially famous for its hard-hitting exposes of extra-judicial killings under President Duterte, who officially hands power over to his successor, Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr., this week.

Ressa has called the SEC ruling a direct response to Rappler’s focus on the chronic abuse of power in the Philippines.

“We have been harassed, this is intimidation, these are political tactics and we refuse to succumb to them,” she told reporters at a press conference.


CBSN’s Elaine Quijano interviews journalist Maria Ressa

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Wednesday’s SEC ruling wasn’t the first against Rappler. The dispute began in 2018, when the agency ruled that Rappler was in breach of the country’s restrictions on foreign ownership of media. It had received funding from the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic organization set up by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay.

Three years later that money was donated to Philippine employees of Rappler to show there was no foreign control over the outlet. But the SEC ruled that accepting the money in the first place had been unconstitutional.

Wednesday’s decision, on an appeal of that earlier ruling, appeared to uphold the initial judgement. It repeated the finding that Rappler had granted Omidyar “control” and “willfully violated the constitution.”

For Ressa, it’s just the latest in a long litany of legal challenges. She was already facing numerous lawsuits that she and her supporters both in the Philippines and around the world see as being politically motivated.

Her lawyers vowed on Wednesday to challenge the most recent SEC ruling in court.

Speaking to CBS’ “60 Minutes” while she was out on parole after a previous conviction in late 2019, Ressa compared reporting on news in the Philippines to being in a war zone. 

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