Duterte’s ban on Rappler reporter slammed as ‘censorship’
Critics on Wednesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s order banning the news website Rappler from Malacañang as “censorship” and a display of “extreme pettiness.”
Mr. Duterte’s decision was because he had enough “fake news” from Rappler, his spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Rappler, however, has maintained the veracity of its reports about Mr. Duterte and his administration.
The ban followed last month’s ruling by the Securities and Exchange Commission that Rappler’s registration be revoked for ownership violations regarding one of its American investors.
Rappler has called that ludicrous and continues to operate pending appeal.
Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication and now a board member of the press watchdog, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said pending the results of the appeal, the ruling was not final and executory.
“Journalists are expected to ask tough questions, particularly to government officials,” he said, referring to the ban on Rappler.
“The order comes off as censorship … In effect, what is being said is that ‘I don’t like you because you ask the tough questions so I will bar you,’” he said.
“Then the other journalists may start to become more careful … That is the chilling effect,” he said. “But their task is to really ask the tough questions to find out what is really happening, especially in the government.”
Teodoro reminded the Duterte administration that it “does not matter whether you like the journalist or not.”
“Journalists have the right to cover public affairs and public officials,” he said.
But amid discussions of the Duterte administration’s efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution, whose Bill of Rights protects the freedoms of speech, expression and assembly, Teodoro warned that it may be “just a matter of time” before journalists are arrested simply for doing their job.
Calling the ban on Rappler a display of “extreme pettiness,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Mr. Duterte acted like a “petulant child throwing a fit.”
“When the highest official in the land chooses to wage a personal vendetta against an individual, whether a journalist or a media outfit, it sends a clear and chilling signal that everyone else better report only what he wants you to see,” NUJP said in a statement.
Movement on Tyranny also slammed Brig. Gen. Lope Dagoy, commander of the Presidential Security Group, for saying Rappler Pia Ranada and other reporters who questioned a Palace guard about the ban must be thankful they were not harmed.
“For Dagoy to equate irritation over an assertion of a right to action deserving of physical punishment is dangerous, not only to journalists but [also] to all citizens who desire to document unjust official actions,” the group said. —With a report from the wires
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