IFJ affiliates condemn Maria Ressa arrest

IFJ affiliates in Asia-Pacific responded to the arrest of Maria Ressa in the Philippines. In statements from across the region they have met with representatives to condemn the arrest. See more below:

Photos from across the Asia Pacific supporting Maria Ressa. Credit: IFJ

Timor Leste Press Union (TLPU)

Timor-Leste Press Union (TLPU) is concerned about press freedom in the Philippines and the arrest in the Philippines of Maria Ressa, founder and executive editor of the news website Rappler, is an alarming development.

Freedom of the press in the Philippines continues to be threatened. In addition to the detention of Maria Ressa, this week alone, a number of sites including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) organization site were hit by DDos attacks. 

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Freedom of the press is an essential pillar of democracy and human rights. TLPU strongly condemns her arrest and calls on the government to immediately release Ressa, drop all charges against her and Rappler, restore official press credentials to Rappler’s reporters, and cease its campaign of harassment.

TLPU reaffirms its commitment to defending journalists and press freedom across the world and reiterates that journalism is not a crime.

Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)

The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association wrote a letter to the Philippines Amabassador to Sri Lanka. Read the letter here.

Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI)

 Journalist Maria Ressa was arrested Wednesday, 13 February 2019, for online libel by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at Rappler’s office, in Pasig City. At least 4 agents and lawyers from the NBI's Cybercrime Division came to serve the warrant signed by Manila RTC Presiding Judge Rainelda H. Estacio-Montesa. The warrant dated February 12, 2019 was served close to 5 pm today, when courts were about to close.

A complaint was filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng 5 years after a story was published on May 29, 2012, or months before the Cybercrime Law was enacted. Rappler story said former chief justice Renato Corona used a vehicle registered under the name of Mr Keng, who, based on intelligence reports and previously published stories, had alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. Rappler also called Keng and got his side before the story was published.

Rappler said the filing of the case is preposterous and baseless. No less than NBI Cybercrime Division chief Manuel Eduarte closed an investigation in February 2018 after finding no basis to proceed, given that the one-year prescriptive period had lapsed. Eight days later, however, the NBI revived the case, and filed it with the Department of Justice on the basis of a theory they call continuous publication.

These are the latest charges against Rappler which has come under repeated attack from the Philippines Government since President Duterte came into office. On December 3, an arrest warrant was issued for Rappler CEO Maria Resa after she and Rappler were charged with five counts of tax fraud. On February 20, Rappler journalist Pia Randa was barred from the Presidential palace, despite covering the politics beat.   

Maria Ressa and Rappler will continue to do their jobs as journalists and media. Ressa has said: "We are not intimidated. No amount of legal cases, black propaganda, and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line. These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail."

Based on these new developments in the Philippines, AJI stated:
1. Condemning the arrest of Maria Ressa. This arrest was none other than an attempt to silence journalists and media who were critical to the government.
2. Expressing solidarity and support for Maria Ressa, Rappler and our colleagues in the Philippines, The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
3. Urging the Philippine government to respect democracy, protect the freedom of the press by stopping all kinds of intimidation and drop all charges against Maria Ressa.

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

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

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