Rappler CEO Maria Ressa blew her top after being shamed as a paid hack of billionaire Pierre Omidyar by a right-wing Canadian journalist during the “Defend Media Freedom Conference” in London sponsored by the left-wing media oligarch.
In a tense exchange with Canadian journalist Ezra Levant, Ressa insisted that Rappler was not a foreign owned website despite receiving a multimillion-dollar investment from Omidyar.
“I’m just telling you, these kinds of simplification is dangerous. It makes all of us are. Number one, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission): we’re not foreign owned. I started as a startup. I took in investors. They can have 10 million views and they can come from rainbow colors. I don’t much care. I have parameters for these investors. Those parameters gave the shareholders agreement that makes us— actually me— the one in control. They invest knowing that,” she explained.
“Let’s take a look at the full range of investments. There’s a [inaudible] of about four and a half million dollars that went into Rappler. Only four and a half million dollars. Only. And we’ve been able, that seven years of doing hard hitting investigative reporting … Of that, probably less than five percent came from Omidyar,” Ressa added.
Ressa chimed in after Levant, who runs The Rebel website, questioned the hypocrisy of forum moderator Nishant Lalwani for criticizing American billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s “octupus-like influence” in giant media firms worldwide.
Levant said Omidyar is no different from Murdoch.
The Canadian journalist noted that Rappler was stripped off its license to operate in the Philippines because of Omidyar’s 2015 investment in the web-only news site.
“How do you (Lalwani) square being the frontman for a left-wing Rupert Murdoch and frankly, how did you manage to direct a non-partisan government conference with the UK and Canada? I mean, really, you’re just a mirror image of Rupert Murdoch. You seem like a nice guy but I wouldn’t trust a conference of Rupert Murdoch (architected?),” Levant said.
“Why should we trust anything run by your billionaire tycoon paymaster— who I’m sure is a nice guy? But no one here is not on your payroll and I think you’ve shaped a lot of this commentary to support your bosses’ desires. It’s weird to me,” he added.
Lalwani, director of investments of Omidyar’s Luminate group, was adamant that nobody on stage, specifically Ressa, was on Omidyar’s payroll.
“So we gave some money to Rappler in 2015,” he said.
Levant stressed that SEC “disagreed” with Rappler’s stand that it did not violate the 1987 Constitution banning any foreign ownership in a media entity like Rappler. Levant said that Omidyar “gave up his stock” (his shares were donated to Ressa and her allies) just avoid getting its registration revoked by the SEC.
Ressa claimed that Rappler was “actually winning” and that its case filed with the Court of Appeals was “moving forward.”
When Levant accused Ressa of “defending” her “boss”– referring to Omidyar- the Rappler executive replied: “He’s not my boss. I’ll give it to him (points to Lalwani). You attacked me. You challenged something that is important to us.”
Ressa said Rappler was fully Filipino-owned despite admitting Omidyar owned five percent of the website.
“We’re an independent media group. Omidyar Network had less than five percent of the shares of Rappler, which was fully Filipino owned. Every investment that was made ran through the big four… our auditors came in, we had the law firm that actually created that Philippine Depositary Receipts. You have to give me that because we can’t let a statement like that lie. Because that could be picked up and send me to jail. That’s the difference between your world and mine. I’m very careful about my words and factual,” she said.
Lalwani reiterated that Omidyar only owned “five percent of the capital.”
“We don’t own the majority stake in any single media company. Pierre has no say in the investments we make in the media companies. We do that as a team in an independent level. We don’t have any editorial influence whatsoever in any companies, but we fund and if you don’t believe me, just ask— and Maria just verified that. I think we’re able to support this conference because we’re a credible investment media… Our independence is proven,” he said.
2. @mariaressa jumped in to defend her boss, saying she “only” took $4.5 million from Omidyar! That made me laugh.
— Ezra Levant 🍁 (@ezralevant) July 10, 2019
5. No-one here cares. They all want some of that sweet, sweet cash. When @mariaressa said a $4.5 million grant from Omidyar no big deal, you could see everyone here salivate like Pavlov’s Dog. That’s what this conference is about: Omidyar wants to rent hundreds of “journalists”.
— Ezra Levant 🍁 (@ezralevant) July 10, 2019