MANILA: Duterte under fire as Philippines moves to close news website

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s government rejected calls yesterday to halt the potential closure a news website that has been reporting on his deadly drug war, with media watchdogs raising fears over eroding freedoms.

The country’s corporate regulator revoked the incorporation papers for Rappler on Monday accusing the online portal of ceding control to foreign investors in an industry exclusively reserved for Filipinos.

Rappler, founded in 2012, has produced reports critical of Duterte’s government, including its centrepiece drug war that has claimed thousands of lives and which has drawn criticism of alleged extrajudicial killings.

Duterte vowed last year to expose Rappler’s “American ownership”, while suggesting the US Central Intelligence Agency funded the outfit.

The government doubled down on the ruling yesterday, with the justice department saying it was studying whether Rappler should now be prosecuted.

“If a law has been violated, then we will file the necessary charges,” Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes told AFP.

Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said the president “found it unfair” for Rappler to accuse him of threatening press freedom, adding he had “nothing to do” with the verdict.

“If the president wanted to do that he could just have sent the armed forces to their offices and padlocked them, which has been done by other regimes. The president has never done that,” Roque said.

The case concerns Rappler Holdings’ decision to issue Philippine depositary receipts for shares of Rappler Inc that the government said were sold to foreign companies.

The Borneo Bulletin
January 17, 2018


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