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Philippine President ‘loses trust’ in news site, bans it over ‘fake news’

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has “lost trust” in local news site Rappler and barred it from covering his official events, his spokesman said on Tuesday, in the latest blow for an outlet known for its tough scrutiny of his government.

Duterte’s decision was because he has had enough of “fake news” from Rappler, his spokesman Harry Roque told DZMM radio, adding that it was free to operate but would have to cover the president speeches and activities from live television instead.

The ban by the volatile leader follows last month’s ruling by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) that Rappler’s license be revoked for ownership violations regarding one of its American investors. The website has called that ludicrous and continues to operate pending appeal.

On Tuesday it called Duterte’s decision to ban its reporters from his events “another instance of power attempting to intimidate independent journalists”.

The issue of Rappler’s status was mired in confusion, with Roque initially saying it could cover the palace news briefings while the appeal is ongoing. The SEC’s decision was not executory.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, however, said that a revocation of a license meant the accreditation of its reporters at the Malacanang presidential palace should therefore be rescinded too.

Contradicting Roque and another palace official, Medialdea told reporters that it was not Duterte’s desire to bar Rappler from his events, and the president was just following the SEC’s decision.

Duterte has sparred frequently during news events with Rappler’s palace reporter, Pia Ranada, and makes no secret of his annoyance at Rappler’s reporting, which has heavily scrutinised his polices and the accuracy of his public statements.

However, one article last month appeared to be the final straw and led to an angry outburst in which he said it had been “throwing trash and shit all along” and was a “fake news outlet”.

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