IS Rappler engaged in mass media? No, if you are going to believe Rappler. Indeed, an absurd claim. But it was Rappler’s get out of constitutional responsibility card.
As a tactic to circumvent the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership and management of mass media, Rappler Inc. claimed that they are “not engaged in Mass Media.” That is what Rappler Inc. asserted in their verified explanation filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on August 29, 2017. And in an absurd moment that lasted for five pages, the SEC argued that Rappler Inc. is a mass media entity.
Rappler’s assertion does not only hoodwink our Republic, it also insults their supporters. They claim to be a media entity in order to be bearers of the freedom of the press, but at the same time denies it in order to escape the long arm of the law. In other words, Rappler wants to eat our Constitution and poop on it too.
And that is what Rappler is teaching our young generation: claim rights without responsibilities. As they make their debacle all about freedom of the press, they shield themselves from discussing their duty under our Constitution — that they must be 100 percent controlled by Filipino citizens.
The SEC decision is clear about how Rappler is not 100 percent controlled by locals. One of Rappler’s investors, Omidyar Network, needs to be consulted and approve any changes in corporate policies that could affect their interests. That is expressed in the infamous Paragraph 12.2.2 of the terms of the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) of Omidyar Network.
As the SEC found out, the Omidyar Network “specifically negotiated with Rappler to insert Paragraph 12.2.2.” This indicates that Rappler’s foreign investor “wanted to have some degree of control over Rappler’s corporate policy”; and that only means Rappler is not 100 percent controlled by Filipino citizens, which is a violation of the Constitution, the SEC argued.
Yet this discussion is lost when local and foreign media discuss what happened to Rappler. They also did not pay attention to Rappler’s deceptive claim that they are not a media entity. Perhaps our media organizations think that Rappler’s deception is acceptable.
But what legitimate aim does Rappler’s lie serve? Nothing. By claiming that it is not a media entity, Rappler is only serving its own interests to circumvent our Constitution. And that deception does not in anyway protect and advance press freedom in our country or elsewhere. It trashes it.
Fortunately, one media group did not get lost in the hysteria that freedom of the press is under attack because of what happened to Rappler.
On January 16, informed by their careful reading of the SEC’s decision, the National Press Club (NPC) released a statement declaring that “the exercise of press freedom in particular, and the freedom of expression in general, have not been affected nor threatened with the finding of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that online news platform Rappler, Inc., violated the strict constitutional provision on 100 percent control and ownership of mass media and its decision to close down the media outfit.”
In an apparent jab at the hysteria Rappler and their allied political party, the Liberal Party (LP) of the Philippines, is fomenting, NPC President Paul M. Gutierrez offered this sobering assessment:
“There are about 436 television broadcast stations, 411 AM radio stations, over 1,000 FM radio stations and more than 400 newspapers today operating freely in the country besides those that now have proliferated in social media and whose actual number no one really has any idea.”
“To say that the fate of one media entity found to have run afoul of the law translates to media repression in the country is stretching the argument a bit too much”
I could not agree more. Rappler violated the law, tried to escape it by claiming that it is not a media entity, and now it is insulting all of us by asserting that their freedom of the press is being violated. But if Rappler is not a media entity, as it argued in its verified explanation, then how is freedom of the press under attack?
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