Philippine gov't hits New York Times for defending Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government criticized the New York Times (NYT) for releasing an editorial that defended Rappler after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the license of the social news network.

The New York Times editorial, published on January 17, urged the world to condemn an "effort to silence independent voices" in the Philippines.  

The editorial also said President Duterte "should be condemned first and foremost for his blatant violations of human rights."

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez denied, however, that there is a "political motivation" behind the SEC ruling on Rappler.

In a letter to the editor published by the NYT on Wednesday, January 24, Romualdez said SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa is "a person of unimpeachable character." 

He also described her as "highly respected within legal and policy circles for her commitment to the rule of law and to the public interest."

"Efforts to impute political motivation to this case do a great disservice to Ms Herbosa and the institution she leads," Romualdez said.

"The commission's decision is about upholding the law. It has no bearing on the state of press freedom in the Philippines, where thousands of broadcast stations and newspapers continue to operate unhampered," he explained.

"We respect the SEC's decision. No one, including media organizations, should be exempt from complying with the law," said Romualdez, a prominent media personality before joining the Philippine government.

International groups, such as Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, earlier slammed the SEC ruling as a blow to press freedom in the Philippines. 

Vowing to contest the SEC ruling, Rappler said, "We will hold the line." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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