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Journalists protest Philippine move to close news website Rappler

Published: Updated:

Philippine journalists took to the streets Friday in support of a news website facing state-enforced closure, accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of trampling on press freedom.

The government withdrew the corporate registration of the Rappler website this week and has summoned its chief executive to answer a “cyber-libel” complaint in what media watchdogs describe as payback for critical coverage of Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

About 200 journalists and activists, most of them wearing black, gathered in northern Manila at dusk to protest the ruling, seen by critics as Duterte’s latest bid to stifle opposition to his narcotics crackdown.

The protesters carried banners saying “fight the Duterte dictatorship” and “defend press freedom”.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement that the demonstration showed “that freedom is alive and democracy is alive in the Philippines”.

Rappler, founded in 2012, is among a handful of Philippines-based news organizations which had produced reports critical of Duterte’s flagship “war on drugs” that the government says has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 suspects.