Olympics

Rappler provincial reporters barred from covering Duterte’s events

Pia Ranada
Journalists based outside Metro Manila are banned from President Rodrigo Duterte's events in their hometowns if they are covering for Rappler

VISITING PROVINCES. President Rodrigo Duterte attends an event in Sta Ana, Cagayan. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Even Rappler’s correspondents based outside Metro Manila will not be allowed to cover President Rodrigo Duterte’s events in their provinces.

This was confirmed to Rappler by Presidential Communications Undersecretary Mia Reyes in a text on Tuesday, March 13.

“Yes,” said Reyes when asked if Rappler’s stringers in the provinces will be stopped from covering Duterte’s events in their hometowns.

In the days after, Rappler has sought to get more details on the ban but Reyes stopped responding. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, on Friday, said he as “no info” regarding the order.

On Tuesday, March 13, Rappler correspondent Raymon Dullana, who is based in Cagayan, was informed that, as Rappler correspondent, he will not be allowed to cover presidential events.

He was only allowed to cover Duterte’s arrival at the Cagayan Northern International Airport when he said he would cover the event for The Northern Forum, a newspaper based in Cagayan Valley. 

Dullana was told that  the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) expressly instructed Malacanang’s Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO) that “all Rappler correspondents” are prohibited from covering Duterte’s events.

The order stems from Duterte’s original Malacañang ban covering this reporter and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. The Palace justified the ban by citing the Securities and Exchange Commission decision to revoke Rappler’s license, a decision the SEC itself said is not yet final and executory. Malacañang also said Duterte’s ban was due to his annoyance at Rappler’s reporting. (READ: From Cory to Rody: Presidents and their beef with Palace reporters)

The Rappler ban was eventually expanded to include even presidential events outside the Palace. 

Affront to local media

Rappler condemned the new Malacañang order as an attack on press freedom, particularly local media.

“It is an attack – not just on Rappler but on the local media outlets and journalists’ associations that our stringers belong to. It is an affront – to the locals, whose homegrown watchdogs are not allowed to be the voice of their communities,” said the news organization in a statement (full version below).

“We maintain that, by arbitrarily enforcing against Rappler a regulatory ruling that is not final and executory, Malacañang and the President are merely finding excuses to avoid public scrutiny and to control the narrative on public affairs,” Rappler added.

Media groups, lawmakers, and human rights groups have condemned the move as an attack on press freedom. (READ: NUJP: Expanded ban on Rappler by Malacañang ‘a low point in pettiness’)

Aside from the SEC ruling and coverage ban, Rappler was slapped with  a cyberlibel case which had been dismissed by the National Bureau of Investigation’s legal division but later revived, as well as a tax evasion case.

Below is Rappler’s statement on the order against its local correspodents:

Duterte’s ban vs Rappler an attack on the provincial press too

President Rodrigo Duterte has expanded his ban on Rappler to include our locally-based stringers. Similar to how Malacañang failed to provide our Manila-based staff with a formal, written notice and a credible, consistent reason for this policy, it also just sprang this rule on the provincial journalists associated with us.

On Tuesday, March 13, an official of the Presidential Communications Operations Office confirmed to us with a brief “yes” that Rappler’s stringers would not be allowed to cover the President’s events in their home provinces.

This was after our stringer in Cagayan, Raymon Dullana, was informed on the same day that the Media Accreditation and Relations Office had excluded him from the list local journalists who would be allowed to cover President Duterte’s visit on March 14, when he would witness the wrecking of smuggled luxury cars.

We were told that local coordinators for the event received instructions – citing orders from the Pesidential Management Staff headed by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go – that “bawal ang lahat ng Rappler correspondents sa lahat ng events ni PRRD (all Rappler correspondents are banned from all of PRRD’s events).”

We condemn Malacanang’s yet another display of abuse of power to intimidate independent journalists.

We reiterate that the latest reason cited by Malacañang for preventing Rappler from covering the President and his events – that our license to operate has been revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission – does not stand.

Rappler continues to operate because no less than the SEC has said its decision against Rappler cannot be implemented just yet. The case has been elevated to the Court of Appeals and is awaiting final decision.

We maintain that, by arbitrarily enforcing against Rappler a regulatory ruling that is not final and executory, Malacañang and the President are merely finding excuses to avoid public scrutiny and to control the narrative on public affairs.

It is an assault – on press freedom.

It is an attack – not just on Rappler but on the local media outlets and journalists’ associations that our stringers belong to.

It is an affront – to the locals, whose homegrown watchdogs are not allowed to be the voice of their communities. 

Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.