News company Rappler, owned by Filipino Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, was ordered to shut down the day before President Rodrigo Duterte is due to leave office, but has vowed to keep the site up and running.
Ms. Ressa has been a vocal critic of Duterte and the deadly war on drugs he launched in 2016, sparking what media advocates say a series of criminal charges, investigations and online attacks against her and Rappler.
The final blow was dealt by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.
In a statement Wednesday, he confirmed Rappler’s “cancellation of registration certificates” for violating “constitutional and statutory restrictions on foreign media ownership.”
Maria Ressa was a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured). Source: Getty / Ezra Akayan
Ruppler said the decision “virtually confirmed the closure” of the company and vowed to appeal, calling the proceedings “extremely irregular”.
But Ms Ressa was characteristically brash, vowing that the news site would keep going while they followed the trial.
“We keep working, it’s business as usual,” Ressa told reporters, adding that “we can only hope for the best.”
Rappler has struggled to survive as Mr. Duterte’s government has accused him of violating a constitutional ban on foreign property in obtaining funding, as well as tax evasion.
He was also charged with cyberdefamation, a new criminal law passed in 2012, the same year that Rappler was founded.
Mr. Duterte attacked the website by name, calling it a “fake news release” because of a story about one of his closest aides.
The news portal is accused of allowing foreigners to gain control of its website through the issuance of “depositary receipts” by parent company Rappler Holdings.
According to the constitution, media investment is reserved for Filipinos or Filipino-controlled entities.
The case stems from a 2015 investment by the American Omidyar Network, created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Later, Mr. Omidyar turned over his investment in Rappler to the site’s local managers to prevent Mr. Duterte’s attempts to shut it down.
Ms Ressa, who is also a US citizen, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to “defend free speech”.
She is pending at least seven court cases, including an appeal against a conviction in a cyberdefamation case that has placed her on bail and could face up to six years in prison.
According to Ms. Ressa, Rappler faces about eight cases.
The International Center for Journalists called on the Philippine government to reverse its order to shut down Rappler.
“This legal action not only costs Rappler time, money and energy. It promotes relentless and fruitful online violence designed to stifle independent reporting,” the ICFJ said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Marcos Jr., the son of a former Philippine dictator who oversaw massive human rights abuses and corruption, replaced Duterte on Thursday.
Activists fear that the presidency of Marcos Jr. could worsen human rights and freedom of speech in the country.