Asec Mocha wants power to accredit Rappler as “social media”

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Philstar file photo of PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson

Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson has written PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar to request that Rappler – which bills itself as a “social news network” – “be reclassified and moved from Malacañang Press Corp (sic) to social media,” which Uson’s office handles.

In a post on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, Uson shared a photo of her letter to Andanar, with the caption “Napapanahon na itama ang mali (It is time to right a wrong).”

In the letter, Uson asked Andanar to clarify the status of Rappler, since it is “an online publication that has no counterpart print or broadcast arm,” which, in her view renders it “technically… social media.”

“This should fall under the rules on accreditation administered by my office,” Uson reasoned.

In response, Rappler posted an article saying the PCOO Assistant Secretary’s request is “misplaced”.

It reasoned that they are “an independent private media company,” and as the Constitution “guarantees freedom of the press (Art. III, Section 4), government does not have the power to regulate independent media.”

It added that the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) “is an independent group unattached to any government agency and is not under government control nor the supervision” of the PCOO.

“MPC by-laws are explicit on accreditation and cover online news organizations like Rappler. Section 2 under ‘Qualifications for MPC Membership’ states: ‘For internet-based media, the reporter must represent a website affiliated with a duly-recognized print/radio/TV agency, or established online news organization with regular deployment of personnel in major beats’,” Rappler said.

It further said that the PCOO’s Interim Social Media Practitioner Accreditation “covers only individuals and not news organizations. Section 5 of the PCOO’s Department Order 15 is categorical: ‘Social Media accreditation shall be issued to a Filipino Citizen who is at least eighteen (18) years of age, with not less than five thousand (5,000) followers in any social media platform’.”

Supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte have taken offense frequently with Rappler’s coverage of political events, especially those involving the President.

Recently, vocal Duterte loyalist RJ Nieto, who is behind the blog Thinking Pinoy, publicly called on Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque to throw a hollow block at Rappler’s Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada-Robles. The latter complained with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and dwIZ, which hosted the morning program where Nieto made the remarks.