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Tax and licensing regulations weaponised against media in the Philippines

The media environment in the Philippines is increasingly restricted, and the political culture seems to intend to close it further; a ranking member of the House of Representatives proposed revising the constitution to grant only a right to the ‘responsible exercise’ of freedom of speech.[1]

Duterte’s government used administrative tools to force the closure of online news outlet Rappler, whose license was revoked in January on the grounds that it had breached ‘foreign ownership’ regulations.[2] In November, Rappler was indicted on tax charges and a warrant issued for its President, Maria Ressa, who managed to post bail.[3] Various state institutions orchestrated harassment of, and a spate of prosecutions against, Rappler – seemingly due to its persistence in exposing human rights violations. President Duterte even specifically mentioned the outlet in his speeches, accusing it of being US-owned and spreading ‘fake news’.


[1] Mong Palatino, ‘Asia-Pacific welcomes the new year – with declining freedom’, IFEX, 2 February 2018, available at

[2] IFEX, #StandWithRappler: Philippines Revokes License of News Group Critical of Duterte, 16 January 2018, available at

[3] Lian Buan, ‘DOJ indicts Rappler Holdings, Maria Ressa for tax evasion’, Rappler, 9 November 2019, available at