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Philippine news website's licence revoked after Duterte threat

AFP  |  Manila 

The Philippine has revoked the operating licence of leading website Rappler, officials said today in a ruling denounced by Rodrigo Duterte's critics as another blow to press freedom.

Rappler, set up in 2012, is among a clutch of Philippine organisations that have sparred with Duterte over their critical coverage of his brutal drugs war.

The (SEC) said it had revoked the incorporation certificates of and Holdings Corp because they violated a provision in the Philippine to Filipinos.

"(Both are) existing for no other purpose than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the constitution," the agency said in a January 11 ruling posted on its website today.

Rappler's told AFP the company would file a appeal against the ruling, which is due to take effect in 15 days.

"This is pure and simple harassment, the seeming coup de grace to the relentless and malicious attacks against us since 2016," the website said in a statement, adding Duterte was among those who had attacked it.

"We will continue bringing you the news, holding the powerful to account for their actions and decisions, calling attention to lapses that further disempower the disadvantaged," it said.

The case concerns Holdings' decision to issue Philippine depositary receipts for shares of that the said were sold to foreign companies.

At his state of the nation address to last year Duterte vowed to expose Rappler's "American ownership".

The ruling followed setbacks suffered by other Philippine organisations which have criticised Duterte's war on drugs that has killed nearly 4,000 suspects.

In March last year Duterte described top newspaper and leading as "sons of whores" and warned them of karmic repercussions over their criticism of his drug war.

"I'm not threatening them but someday their karma will catch up with them," Duterte said.

"They're shameless, those sons of whore journalists," Duterte said.

Four months later the Inquirer announced its owners were in talks to sell the publication. A business tycoon who backed Duterte's 2016 election bid later disclosed he was planning to buy the Inquirer.

Last year Duterte threatened to block ABS-CBN's application to renew its operating franchise, a permit that requires congressional approval.

The group of Journalists of the denounced the Rappler ruling.

"It was but one of many threats Duterte has made against media critical of him and his governance, such as the and ABS-CBN," the union said in a statement.

"We call on all Filipino journalists to unite and resist every and all attempts to silence us," the group added.

Opposition Senator also criticised the Rappler ruling, calling it "pure harassment and a clear attack on press freedom".

said the government respected the SEC ruling.

"The is empowered to determine the legality of corporations," Roque said in a statement.

He added that Rappler "may wish to exhaust all available remedies until the decision becomes final".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, January 15 2018. 16:40 IST