Forty-one journalists filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) today to join embattled news website Rappler‘s plea for the court to end President Rodrigo Duterte’s ban that prevents its reporters from covering his events.
The journalists that filed the petition-in-intervention in support of Rappler were represented by Theodore Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group, Rappler reported. They also asked the SC to hold oral arguments on the case.
The petition states that the ban, which violates press freedom, is arbitrary and constitutes content-based prior restraint. According to a 2008 High Court decision, prior restraint refers to “official government restrictions on the press or other forms of expression in advance of actual publication or dissemination.”
The petition also states that Duterte’s ban, which he articulated on March 1, 2018, “extends not only to Rappler and to its reporters and staff but also to any journalist who would write or broadcast anything that the President deems to be ‘fake news.’”
The series of bans began back in March 2018, when Duterte first prohibited Rapplerreporter Pia Ranada from covering all of his events held in the Malacañang Palace. A month later, the ban was extended to all Rappler reporters, including correspondents based in the provinces. Duterte has called Rappler a “fake news outlet” with stories “rife with innuendos and pregnant with falsity.”
Some of the journalists and columnists who signed the petition were Luis Teodoro, Tina Palma, Atom Araullo, Sandra Aguinaldo, Mariz Umali, Marites Vitug, Inday Varona, John Nery, Solita Monsod, Nikko Dizon, Lourd de Veyra, Marlon Ramos, Melina Quinto De Jesus, Vergel Santos, and Florangel Braid, GMA News reported.
Earlier this month, Rappler filed a petition asking the SC to end Duterte’s ban.
The coverage ban was imposed after Rappler’s license to do business was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in January 2018. The SEC revoked Rappler‘s registration because it allegedly violated the Constitution’s requirement for all mass media to be 100 percent Filipino-owned.
The SEC deemed that investment from Omidyar Network, founded by American businessman Pierre Omidyar, constituted as foreign ownership. Rappler, however, maintains that the firm invested using Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), which are instruments that foreign companies can buy in order to invest in Filipino companies without actually gaining ownership.
Rappler‘s CEO Maria Ressa has also been in a string of various legal woes. She has been indicted for tax evasion and for allegedly violating the anti-dummy law. She also has an arraignment set in May for a cyber libel case.
Ressa believes all charges from the government are politically-motivated and many local and international media continue to support her and Rappler.