Journalist Maria Ressa Arrested for 'Cyber Libel' in the Philippines

14 Février, 2019, 08:05 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Rappler chief Maria Ressa. File

She kept at it anyway, pushing ahead with her writing and speaking amid ever-escalating threats.

Officers from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa early Wednesday evening, February 13, in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the justice department. Instead of delivering a talk on press freedom, as she planned to do, she was taken into custody.

She posted bail after arrest warrants were issued. Rappler, founded in 2012, rejected the ruling.

Ressa earned the Time honor through Rappler's consistent criticism of Duterte's policy of promoting extrajudicial killings of drug suspects to eradicate the nation's widespread drug problem, primarily "shabu" or methamphetamines. She was also its lead investigative reporter on terrorism in South East Asia. She then headed the news division of the Philippines biggest TV news channel, ABS-CBN. It was the first of its kind in the Philippines, and while initially seen as a site primarily for young readers, through the power of social media it has grown into the forth biggest news website in the Philippines with over 100 journalists. Like populist authoritarian leaders elsewhere, he alternately basks in the spotlight and dismisses reporters as peddlers of "fake news". A year ago, Duterte's government revoked Rappler's journalist license and banned Rappler journalists from Malacanang, the presidential palace. In his 2017 State of the Union address, he called out the company by name, implying, without citing evidence, that the company was foreign owned. By January 2017, the SEC had chose to revoke Rappler's license but the case went to the court of appeals, where it was remanded back to the SEC for having no basis. "And that's why she is now being charged", he said.

Now, there are more charges.

However, as Rappler lawyers have pointed out, the cyber-libel law being used against Rappler and Ressa was enacted four months after the story was published. However, the law was not passed until September 2012.

The justice department's case was based on a complaint filed by a businessman whose alleged ties to a former judge of the country's Supreme Court were reported by Rappler.

IPI director of advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said: 'The arrest of Maria Ressa is an outrageous attempt by the Philippines government to silence a news organization that has been courageously investigating corruption and human rights violations in the country. "No one is safe". People chanted "defend press freedom" and "free Maria Ressa".

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The complaint from a businessman was condemned by Amnesty International as "brazenly politically motivated".

Ressa has played a key role in raising awareness about threats to journalists at home and overseas.

As among those named Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2018, Ms Ressa has constantly clashed with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ressa, who has worked with CNN, also was the victor of two prestigious journalism awards previous year, a Press Freedom award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Center for Journalists' Knight International Journalism Award. Keng had originally filed a lawsuit in 2017 claiming defamation which was it was dropped, but it was refiled again past year.

Rappler reporters said on Twitter that one of the arresting NBI agents tried to stop them from recording the service of the arrest warrant.

"This is another of several attempts to intimidate us, it will not succeed, as past attempts have shown". Maria Ressa and Rappler will continue to do our jobs as journalists. "We're going to just hold the line, we'll keep going". He is supposedly close to lawmakers and had contacts with the U.S. embassy at the time.

"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", Ressa said in a statement.

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