Photo by Red Carao

Text by Kim Muaña and Jeuel Barroso

Standing for press freedom, students and media practitioners rallied against the Duterte administration’s attacks on the media in a series of protests last week.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), a nationwide alliance of tertiary-level student publications, led the protest at the Mendiola Peace Arch last Wednesday after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) suspended Rappler’s license to operate.

In a decision dated Jan. 11, the SEC said Rappler violated laws on restrictions of foreign funding to Philippine mass media as they “sold control to foreigners” and did a “deceptive scheme to circumvent the constitution.”

Aside from Rappler’s imminent shutdown, the National Telecommunications Commission is also planning to close around 30 radio stations in Davao for violating broadcasting laws and not having necessary permits.

Burning a photograph of President Rodrigo Duterte, the media students publicly condemned the administration’s activities that constrain news agencies from exercising press freedom.

“Nagkakaisa at hindi natatakot ang mga mamamahayag pang-campus, ang mga pahayagan, na bagamat maliit, ay may tinig pa rin,” CEGP national president Jose Mari Callueng said.

“Ito ang panahon para magkaisa… para lakasan pa ang ating tinig, para lakasan pa ang ating panawagan na ipagtanggol ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag,” Callueng added.  

The SEC decision covered both Rappler, Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corporation.

The agency claimed that Omidyar Network, an investment firm owned by the founder of  online auction firm eBay, has control over Rappler by being one of their investors.

They argued that Rappler violates laws on Foreign Equity Restrictions in Mass Media.

“If not for returns, for what purpose then is the investment? Control,” the decision said.

However, last Wednesday, Callueng said that SEC’s decision is an “attack” above anything else. While they accuse Rappler of being owned by a foreign company, the government is already leaning towards opening the country more to foreign businesses.

“Sobrang ironic kasi ang naging standard nila para ipasara ‘yung Rappler ay yung constitutionality on ownership samantalang ung sinusulong sa Kamara ngayon na federal constitution ay siyang nagsasaad ng full foreign ownerhsip ng mga media entities.”

Relaxing restrictions on foreign ownership of local business is one of considered changes in the federal constitution, proponents from House of Representatives said last year.

Meanwhile, UP student journalists then joined in protest with campus publications from Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) and other universities at Ateneo Gate 2 on Friday. It was organized by the Confederation of Student Publications, including The GUIDON, Matanglawin Ateneo and Heights Ateneo.

The GUIDON editor-in-chief Robbin Dagle said that campus publications won’t stop fighting for democracy, freedom and every Filipino as they claimed that the issue with Rappler is similar to what campus publications currently face.

“Hindi ho ito isolated case eh, ‘yung sa Rappler,” Callueng said, “Nakita natin sa ngayon na kung gaanong iniikutan maski ‘yung legal system natin para i-legitimize ‘yung pag shutdown, pagsupress sa media.

“Maging naman ‘yung sa ating mga pahayagang pang-campus at ibang independent press e ginagawa ito,” he added.

As 2017 drew to a close, Tinig ng Plaridel itself received threats from Facebook trolls after publishing stories regarding protests against Duterte..

“Ang aming kolehiyo daw ay nagsusulong ng isang midyang malaya at mapagpalaya…ngunit mismong administrasyon namen ay pilit na pinapatahimik ang kanyang mga estudyante,” UP Diliman film student Revy Marata said.

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