UN experts express serious alarm at effort to shut down independent media outlet in the Philippines
GENEVA (25 January 2018) – The Philippines Government must halt moves to shut down independent news website Rappler, a
group of UN human rights experts* have said.
“We are gravely concerned that the government is moving to revoke Rappler’s licence,” said the three Special Rapporteurs
in a joint statement.
For several years Rappler, an innovative and independent source of news and analysis in the Philippines, has provided
critical coverage regarding the current administration’s violent “war on drugs” and the spread of disinformation over
the internet and social media, allegedly by government officials and their supporters. In turn President Duterte and his
leading supporters have strongly criticized Rappler. Some of the criticism has included threats of physical harm to
“Rappler’s work rests on its own freedom to impart information, and more importantly its vast readership to have access
to its public interest reporting,” the UN experts said. “As a matter of human rights law, there is no basis to block it
from operating. Rappler and other independent outlets need particular protection because of the essential role they play
in ensuring robust public debate.”
Rappler’s certificate of incorporation was revoked on 11 January by the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC) over allegations it breached ownership rules when it accepted money from foreign investors. Rappler is continuing
to operate while it is challenging the decision of SEC in court. If the decision is upheld, the news outlet will be
forced to close.
“The SEC’s move is at odds with its past approach to foreign support of local or national media, given that
philanthropic contributions do not amount to foreign ownership,” the experts noted.
“It has rejected the previously accepted format of contributions which media companies use to raise foreign funding.
“We are especially concerned that this move against Rappler comes at a time of rising rhetoric against independent
voices in the country,” the UN experts concluded. “We urge the Government to return to its path of protection and
promotion of independent media, especially those covering issues in the public interest.”
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures
of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system,
is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific
country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis;
they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or
organization and serve in their individual capacity.