Rappler, NUJP ask Duterte to lift coverage ban

DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM. Several groups joined the mass action in Quezon City to defend press freedom. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM. Several groups joined the mass action in Quezon City to defend press freedom.

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – After a year that its staff and CEO Maria Ressa were banned from setting foot in Malacañang or covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s events, Rappler and media watchdog group National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) called on the Palace to abandon this order.

Rappler management wrote to both Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Wednesday, February 20, exactly a year after Duterte’s order to ban Rappler reporter Pia Ranada and Ressa. (READ: One year banned from President Duterte's events)

This order quickly expanded to cover all Rappler reporters and provincial correspondents, and places where Duterte is present.

“We ask you to lift [the ban] and allow Rappler full access to the media coverage of President Duterte,” said Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria.

“The existing presidential ban stands in the way of a journalist’s mission to provide the most complete information on public officials, institutions, and issues that he or she is covering,” she said.

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NUJP, on Wednesday, added its voice to Rappler’s.

“The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines supports the call of Rappler to restore its right and that of its staff and personnel to the free coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte and all his official activities,” according to a statement sent by the organization to Rappler.

The ban on Rappler, said NUJP, “tramples on the constitutional prohibition against laws abridging the freedom of the press has gone on too long.”

Rappler contends that the existing ban “violates a basic constitutional principle that no law or rule should be passed abridging the freedom of the press.”

The ban on Rappler’s coverage continues despite the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) saying Rappler continues to be an MPC member, the organization of reporters often given Palace accreditation to cover the President’s events.

Malacañang officials have said that Duterte has banned Rappler because he was “annoyed” at its reportage and because of the January 2018 decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission to revoke Rappler’s license to operate. (READ: TIMELINE: Malacañang's evolving statements on Rappler ban)

However, the SEC itself has said their order is not final and executory.

Court of Appeals remands case to SEC

In its July 25, 2018 decision on the case, the Court of Appeals (CA) did not approve SEC's order and instead ordered the commission to review it because the supposedly problematic Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) that led SEC to conclude there was “some foreign control” over Rappler was already donated to Filipino managers.

The CA had said the donation by Omidyar showed "the intention to comply in good faith with the regulations of the SEC.” The court also told SEC that the commission is “mandated to give incorporators a reasonable time within which to correct or modify the objectionable portions of their articles of incorporation or amendment.”

The court added that revoking a certificate of registration should have been the “last resort.”

Aside from the one-year ban and the remanded SEC order, Rappler is also battling legal cases: 

Ressa has had to post bail 6 times in a little more than two months.

She was arrested on February 13 in connection with the cyber libel case and posted bail on February 14. (WATCH: Rappler's cyber libel case in a nutshell– Rappler.com