#HoldTheLine Coalition calls for charges to be dropped as Maria Ressa returns to court

Rappler’s chief executive officer Maria Ressa faces court tomorrow on criminal tax charges based on suite of tax violations that are predicated on charges connected to alleged foreign media ownership breaches. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demands the Philippines authorities drop a tax and foreign ownership cases against Ressa and Rappler, the news organisation she founded.

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks during a press conference on June 15, 2020. Credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP

Charges of illegal foreign ownership, libel and tax violations have been levied against Ressa and Rappler In the drawn-out case against Maria Ressa and her former colleague Rey Santos Jr, a Manila court found the two guilty of cyber libel charges on June 15, 2020. Following her conviction, a global collective of 78 civil society and journalism organisations was formed to defend the prominent Filipino-American editor, which includes the IFJ Asia-Pacific and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is a Coalition founding partner.

The #HoldTheLine Coalition is calling for the dismissal of all tax and foreign ownership cases. Ahead of her appearance tomorrow, the Court has an opportunity to quash the criminal taxation charge on which Ressa faces arraignment. The Coalition is urging the state to immediately drop this charge and end the prosecution of the other charges and cases associated with it.

Together with the criminal libel conviction, which is currently under appeal, and a second pending libel action, convictions in all these cases could theoretically lead to a century in jail for Ressa.

"From inciting hate on social media to weaponising the law to using the full force of the state against journalists trying to hold power to account ... it's a war of attrition, tearing down trust and credibility. This is how democracy dies by a thousand cuts,” Ressa said.

The demand from the #HoldTheLine Coalition echoes the call by more than 10,000 signatories on a petition calling on the Philippine government to drop all cases against Ressa, her former colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr, as well as Rappler.

The IFJ said:  “The court’s cyber libel conviction of Maria Ressa is a blow to democracy, journalism and freedom of expression around the world. The unfounded charges of tax evasion only seek to further weaponise the law to undermine democracy and freedom of expression. The IFJ joins its Coalition partners in urging the government to drop all charges and cease and desist its orchestrated harassment campaign.”

The full #HoldTheLine Coalition statement can be found here.

 

 

 

 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

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

Find the IFJ Asia - Pacific IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram