Philippines: Rappler’s Maria Ressa facing court ruling in ‘cyber libel’ case

A Manila court is expected to rule on the cyber libel case against internationally recognised Philippine journalist Maria Ressa on Monday, June 15. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) stand in solidarity with Maria Ressa who has bravely withstood a long-running and targeted campaign of government-led attacks and intimidation.

Maria Ressa speaks with her lawyer Theodore Te as she leaves a court hearing in Manila on December 16, 2019. Credit: MARIA TAN / AFP

In February 2019, Rappler’s chief executive officer, Maria Ressa, was charged under the Cybercrime Prevention Act (2012) for an article dating back to 2012 on the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona. Despite the cyber libel legislation only becoming law in late 2012 after the Rappler article was published, Ressa and Rappler reporter, Reynaldo Santos Jr were charged retrospectively.

The Philippines Department of Justice (DOG) resolution on the case noted the Rappler report as being published in 2014. According to Rappler, this was due to a modification made to correct a typographical error. The DOJ maintains this constituted a “republication” and “distinct offence” and breach of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. 

Ressa and Rappler have been repeated targets of the Philippine government’s attempts to discredit the media and critical voices in the country. Earlier this year, Ressa was targeted alongside ABS-CBN in a black propaganda campaign. The Philippines largest broadcaster, ABS-CBN is currently facing the same attacks Philippines president Duterte undertook against Rappler in 2018, revoking the news platforms license.

In 2019, the Duterte administration made allegations against a number of journalists, including Ressa and Inday Espina-Varona as being part of an alleged plot to ‘overthrow’ the Duterte administration. In February and March 2019, Ressa was arrested for libel and violating foreign ownership rules and securities fraud.

NUJP said: The government clearly twisted the law to make sure the charges against Maria made it to court. This simply shows the lengths this administration will go to persecute the independent and critical media.”

The IFJ said: “The Duterte administration has made no secret of its intentions to silence Maria Ressa and Rappler. While she may be one person, her voice is strong and her brave defiance against ongoing attacks is supported globally as a critical fight for media independence in the Philippines. We stand with Maria Ressa and all journalists in the Philippines and hope justice prevails."

                                 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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