What is Omidyar Network and why did it invest in Rappler?
In its bid to silence Rappler, the Duterte government used the investment of a U.S.-based organization called Omidyar Network to argue that the media organization is some pawn of a foreign entity.
It’s a bizarre, disingenuous claim.
It’s a safe bet that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa would never say something like this: “Hey, we have to publish stories Omidyar Network demands since they’re giving us money.
On the other hand, Duterte faces convincing accusations that he’s behaving like a puppet of Beijing with jaw-dropping public statements, like when it was reported that China planned to build structures on Panatag Shoal, off the coast of Zambales province: “We cannot stop China from doing those things. What do you want me to do? Declare war against China? I can’t.”
In any case, the assault on Rappler is an opportunity to explore and explain its relationship with the Omidyar Network and its other funders.
For one point Rappler’s critics have raised is valid: the public has the right to know where an influential media outlet is getting its financing. (On Monday, Rappler published a page to respond to questions related to its SEC case.)
Rappler has stressed that it was structured in a way that made sure control always remained with the journalists, which is unusual for a major Philippine media organization.
“We wanted to set conditions where we are the owners and anyone who comes in must agree with our values and our vision,” Ressa told me. Omidyar Network’s economic stake in Rappler is only 5.5%.
In a statement Omidyar Network affirmed that it “does not own any shares” in the Rappler entities, “nor does it have any voting rights, management responsibilities or any other form of control in either company nor any editorial input in Rappler.