The revocation of Rappler’s certificate of incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) speaks volumes on the fascist Duterte regime’s long-standing policy of stifling dissent. This is an outright and calibrated attack on the freedom of the press especially in a time of heightening political and economic turmoil.

This does not come as a surprise, however. Duterte has long waged a filthy war against the media, fueled by his deep-seated aversion to criticism and scrutiny. Rappler, together with corporate media giants ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer, has been a consistent target of the president’s demolition job of the “biased” media for reporting and exposing his corrupt war on drugs and his government as a political circus. For smaller, independent media organizations, meanwhile, the consequences are worse.

Alternative media outlets and campus publications, with their pro-people and progressive reportage, are often branded as communist propagandists for telling the stories of the marginalized and oppressed sectors such as peasants, urban poor and national minorities. With the Duterte regime’s intensified witch hunt of communists, their reports can land them behind bars or a bullet in the head.

Last year, Sherwin de Vera, an environmental activist and columnist for Baguio-based Northern Dispatch Weekly, was arrested without warrant in Ilocos Sur on December 12 after being maliciously charged with a trumped-up case of rebellion. Meanwhile, broadcast reporter Kathyrine Cortez of Mindanao-based Radyo ni Juan received a series of death threats through text message and tagged her as a communist sympathizer for commenting on the human rights violations against the Lumad.

Similar narratives of intimidation and harassment can be heard from campus journalists, such as in the case of various members of Bicol-based student publications under the banner of College Editors Guild of the Philippines being threatened and surveilled after supposedly landing in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ watchlist in the region.

Campus publications have also beard attacks in the realm of social media at the mercy of state-sponsored online trolls. The Facebook page of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman, is frequented by trolls for contents such as coverage of various mobilizations against the regime. Meanwhile, Tinig ng Plaridel of the UP College of Mass Communication almost had their Facebook page taken down after being reported by trolls following their coverage of the annual Oblation Run which focused on the widespread military destruction during the Marawi siege.

The recent attack on Rappler is just one among scores of press freedom violations committed by the Duterte regime. Just like a true-blue fascist, the president exhausts all resources at hand — fanatic lackeys in the bureaucracy, state-sponsored fake news bloggers, paid army of online trolls, and mercenary military and paramilitary elements — to harass and intimidate the press, a veritable pillar of democracy, and lay the foundations of his impending dictatorial rule.

In this case, the fascist regime even veiled the attempt to gag the press by invoking legalese and questioning Rappler’s supposed foreign ownership, a move that is downright hypocritical as the Duterte administration is now hell-bent in amending the Constitution to include, among other anti-people reforms, opening of public services such as the mass media to full foreign ownership.

Unfortunately for Duterte, this will not silence the press nor the Filipino people, for this will only amplify the growing disgust and condemnation against the regime’s authoritarian rule. Anakbayan, together with the united masses, will take to the streets to defend press freedom and democratic rights and thwart the attacks of the fascist US-Duterte regime. #

 

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