February 21, 2018

Philippine President Duterte bars Rappler reporter from palace

A reporter for the independent news website Rappler has been barred from the Malacañang presidential palace on President Duterte’s orders (photo: Ted Aljibe / AFP).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Philippine government’s decision to prevent the independent news website Rappler from covering the Malacañang presidential palace. RSF regards this latest act of harassment of Rappler as a serious violation of media freedom.

This time it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who took the decision. After Rappler’s accredited Malacañang correspondent, Pia Ranada, was denied entry on arrival at the presidential palace yesterday, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said it was because of a “lack of trust” and because the president was “irritated” with her.

The decision to revoke Rappler’s press accreditation came just a month after its business licence was revoked at the behest of the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“It is completely unacceptable for President Duterte to deny accredited journalists access to press conferences and events at the Malacañang palace,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“This decision, coming soon after the withdrawal of Rappler’s licence, not only speaks to a desire to control journalists’ work but also confirms that the Philippine authorities want to crush an independent media outlet known for the quality of its investigative reporting.”

Presidential executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said that Duterte was “just following the decision of the SEC”, that Rappler’s journalists were being stripped of their accreditation simply because the SEC had withdrawn the website’s licence.

But Rappler has appealed against the SEC’s decision and is therefore able to continue operating until a decision has been issued on its appeal. RSF has meanwhile formally asked international bodies to oppose any attempt to close this independent news website as a flagrant violation of press freedom.

This latest act of harassment came one day after a presidential aide appeared before a senate committee that is investigating a report by Rappler, based on a leak, that he interfered in the procurement process for two navy warships. The claim has been described as “fake news” by Duterte.

This is the first time since the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship that a president has barred a reporter from the presidential palace. It is being seen as yet another sign of the decline in press freedom in the Philippines under Duterte.

The Philippines is ranked 127th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.