Rappler funder Omidyar helped topple Ukrainian president in 2014

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

Is he using the same template?
INTERNET-only news outfit Rappler’s funder Pierre Omidyar, through his Omidyar Network, funded several of the opposition NGOs in Ukraine that conspired to oust through violent protests the pro-Russia President Victor Yanukovych in February 2014, according to respected investigative journalists in the US and Europe.

Rappler has been a venomous anti-Duterte news outfit, particularly adept at disseminating false data on the government’s war against illegal drugs.

Is Omidyar with other Western entities using the same template to oust Duterte, who has been distancing the Philippines from the US to forge an independent foreign policy?

Ukraine’s Yanukovych who won in 2010 as president with 48 percent of the votes (Duterte, to compare, won with 39 percent) was moving his country away from the European Union and the US, to re-establish close ties with Russia—which has really been its brother country, in terms of ethnicity (Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, for example, were Ukrainians) and economic and political history. Yanukovych was, however, overthrown in 2014 through violent street demonstrations, and replaced by pro-West presidents. NGOs funded by US entities, especially Omidyar’s, were the propaganda machines that demonized Yanukovych.


Perhaps flush with its victory in bringing down a pro-Russia sovereign head, and eager to intervene in developing countries under the banner of the neoliberal ideology, Omidyar Network invested in Rappler in November 2015.

Rappler has not disclosed how much Omidyar, a French-American billionaire who founded eBay, had invested in Rappler. However, a study of Rappler’s financial statements, would indicate that Omidyar put in about P100 million in the website. Venture Capital firm North Base media a few months earlier plunked in P50 million.

2014 article exposing Omidyar’s involvement in Ukraine. Inset: Rappler’s image from post in 2015 announcing funding from Omidyar.

The total P150 million has dwarfed the capital put into it by its founder and main owner, the property tycoon Benjamin Bitanga, who has gone in recent years into energy and mining. The magnate was reportedly elated at the two foreign firms’ investments, as he had been worried that the website was continuing to lose heavily after two years of operation, with its managers calling for another major capital infusion.

Funding opposition groups
Pando Daily, a respected digital news organization in the Silicon Valley, had reported in 2014:

“The American government—in the form of the US Agency for International Development (USAID)—played a major role in funding opposition groups (that helped oust Yanukovych).

“Moreover, a large percentage of the rest of the funding to those same groups came from US billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who has previously worked closely with US government agencies to further his own business interests. This was by no means a US-backed coup, but clear evidence shows that US investment was a force multiplier for many of the groups involved in overthrowing Yanukovych.”

Omidyar would seem to want to replicate the experience one of his most deadly NGOs that helped topple the pro-Russia Ukraine President: The virulently anti-Russia internet TV station Hromadske.TV.

The website was set up in 2013, when the anti-Yanukovych movement gained steam, by journalists fired from a mainstream TV station (sounds familiar?). “Within a year, the site became one of the go-to spots for news from the activists’ point of view, all of whom were pro-Europe,” reported Forbes magazine, the newspaper of US capitalism. While the website also got funds from European governments and the George Soros Foundation, “eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s fund is one of the four biggest donors, ” Forbes reported.

Left panel, teamwork by two Omidyar media outfits, The Intercept and Rappler. Right, logos of Rappler and the Ukrainian anti-Russia hromadske.tv, also funded by Omidyar.

Since its start, Rappler’s CEO and editor-in-chief has been Maria Ressa, whose work experience has been totally in TV who reportedly knew little about the Internet. Was Rappler initially designed by the its US architects to replicate the Ukrainian Hromadske.TV, one of the most powerful media outfits that helped oust the pro-Russian president?

Same color
Is it just a coincidence that the logos of Hromadske.TV and Rappler have the same ochre color (see image)? Did Omidyar use his in-house logo designer? Or was Rappler paying homage to Ukraine’s US-backed Orange Revolution that first toppled the pro-Russia Yanukovych?

Omidyar has apparently issued the order for Rappler and another of his media outfits, the US-based online publication The Intercept to work together to create outrage against Duterte. The Intercept has been posting extremely one-sided articles on Duterte that portray the President as a deranged killer.

A June 17 article claimed; “Since Duterte took office last June, police and vigilante death squads have killed more than 7,000 people, and devastated poor communities in cities across the country.”

That 7,000 figure is what Rappler had invented way back in September 2016, which I have totally debunked so that respectable news outlets no longer use that false figure. (See my column: “How Rappler misled EU, Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, BBC — the world,” Manila Times, March 20, 2017.)

The invention of that 7,000 number, which it claimed was only as of September 2016, has been one of Rappler’s biggest achievements in demonizing Duterte.

Without that figure, mere anecdotal reports, and gruesome photos, could not have convinced Western media, and consequently even governments, to believe the lie that Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has been as the The Intercept put it, “murderous” and wide-scale. Despite its clear error in coming up with that figure, Rappler has not retracted, and has even been updating the post that had spread that lie.

Shameful and treasonous
What I found so shameful, and even treasonous for Rappler, was its conspiracy last May with The Intercept to disclose to the world the confidential telephone conversation between President Trump and Duterte.

Obviously to protect itself from legal liability for violating our wire-tapping laws, Rappler gave the transcript of the conversation it got from Yellow stragglers at the foreign affairs department to The Intercept to first publish.

It then reported it, claiming it was merely re-publishing the report of that US Omidyar outfit. The thirst for fame of Rappler’s editors got the better of them, as it apparently asked intercept.com to put a note that the article was written “in partnership with Rappler.” (For details see my column, “Rappler and DFA traitors’ leak of Trump-Duterte call damages PH’s image irreparably,” May 26, 2017.)

In a tone that reflects its capitalist worldview, Forbes’ lead paragraphs for the article on Omidyar’s funding of the Ukraine media outfit read: “The best way to raise funds for a media project in Ukraine? Go full-bore anti-Russia to easily woo North American and European governments to give you money.”

That notion could be the kindest comment on Rappler as well as on PCIJ, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and Vera Files. These latter three are the three local media outfits funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which has been accused by respected investigative journalists to have been and continues to be a venue for propaganda operations of the Central Intelligence Agency (see my column “CIA conduit funding anti-Duterte media outfits,” October 9, 2017)

To paraphrase that Forbes quote: “The best way to raise funds for a media project in the Philippines? Go full-bore anti-Duterte to easily woo North American and European governments to give you money.”

What’s happened to our country? How could journalists who had in the past been passionate nationalists so devoted to the truth serve US masters? Is this what they call “globalization”?

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Twitter: @bobitiglao

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