Veteran reporter Maria Ressa, the founder of Filipino independent news website Rappler, was found guilty on Monday of cyber libel charges by a Manila court. She faces up to 6 years in prison. Critics of the charges, that include prominent human rights and press flexibility supporters, say charges submitted against Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr, a previous Rappler researcher and editor, show how the federal government is cracking down on media liberty and the independent press in the Philippines.
After Ressa was jailed in February 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Being Rights issued a statement that said Ressa’s treatment”seems the latest component in a pattern of intimidation of a media outlet that has actually increasingly protected its self-reliance and its right to perform in-depth examinations and to slam the authorities.”
Both Ressa and the reporters of Rappler, which was founded in 2012, have composed seriously about the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, conducting investigations into corruption charges.
Ressa and Santos were detained in 2019 on cyber libel security charges connected to a short article published in 2012 that reported on the alleged ties between Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in 2011, and wealthy businessmen consisting of Wilfredo Keng.
Keng submitted the cyber libel complaint against the 2 journalists in 2017. The five year space in between the article’s publication and Keng’s grievance was much longer than the 1 year authoritative period for common libel in the Philippines’ penal code, and in order to charge Ressa and Santos, the Department of Justice extended that duration to 12 years for cyber libel. Rappler’s legal counsel argued this could affect their constitutionally safeguarded rights.
In today’s verdict, released by Manila Regional High Court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, Rappler was discovered to have no liability, but Ressa and Santos were both found guilty and ordered to pay 200,000 pesos (about $3,978 U.S. dollars) in ethical damages and another 200,000 pesos great in exemplary damages. They are entitled to post-conviction bail and an appeal the verdict.
In a statement after the verdict, Amal Clooney, the head of Ressa’s legal defense group, said, “This conviction is an affront to the rule of law, a plain caution to journalism, and a blow to democracy in the Philippines. I hope the appeals court will set the record directly in the case.”
Ressa stated, “Flexibility of journalism is the structure of each and every single right you hvae as a Filipino person. If we can’t hold power to account, we can’t do anything. Are we going to lose flexibility of the press? Will it be death by a thousand cuts, or are we going to hold the line so that we safeguard the rights that are enshrined in our constitution?”
Article curated by RJ Shara from Source. RJ Shara is a Bay Area Radio Host (Radio Jockey) who talks about the startup ecosystem – entrepreneurs, investments, policies and more on her show The Silicon Dreams. The show streams on Radio Zindagi 1170AM on Mondays from 3.30 PM to 4 PM.