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  1. #1
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    Prominent Journalist And Duterte Critic Maria Ressa Arrested In Philippines

    Award-winning journalist Maria Ressa was arrested on Wednesday at the headquarters of Rappler, the news outlet she runs in the Philippines, the latest in a deluge of legal attacks on the journalist by President Rodrigo Duterte's government.

    Ressa, 55, is a former CNN bureau chief. She was among four journalists, including the murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, named by Time magazine as Person of the Year for 2018. Since starting Rappler in 2012, Ressa has not been afraid to cast criticism on the government as a result of the news website's investigations into impunity and corruption.
    Plainclothes officers from the National Bureau of Investigation, an agency within the Department of Justice, arrived at Rappler's offices in Manila around 5 p.m. local time. As law enforcement served the warrant, staff were told to stop taking photos and videos. "We'll go after you too," an officer told reporters, according to Rappler.

    Ressa was charged with cyber libel by the Philippine's Department of Justice.

    "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.

    The charge traces back to a story published in May 2012, months before the country's cyber crime prevention law was approved in September.

    Years after the article came out, a businessman named Wilfredo Keng complained that the report linked him to human trafficking and drug smuggling. He said that because Rappler updated its article in 2014, it fell into the purview of the law.
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    On Wednesday, presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa denied bail to Ressa.

    Ressa's arrest does not indicate suppression of the press, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told local media. It "has nothing to do with freedom of expression or freedom of the press," he said, adding, "I think I'd rather advise Maria Ressa just focus on her defense."
    Since Ressa launched Rappler with other high profile journalists about seven years ago, it has become known for its thorough investigations on the extrajudicial killings in Duterte's war on drugs.

    Amid a crackdown on media, the president has repeatedly targeted Rappler, accusing the outlet of producing "fake news."

    Staff have also described professional hurdles and threats.

    Gemma Mendoza, head of Rappler's research and strategy, said the site's comment boards and reporters' social media accounts are bombarded by accusations of being "presstitutes." Reporter Pia Ranada was harassed and banned from covering the president's palace. Multimedia Head Lilibeth Frondoso was imprisoned with her newborn child. Managing editor Glenda Gloria found a black funeral wreath on her doorstep.

    And in December, Ressa was arrested on charges of tax violations. She had just flown back to the Philippines after receiving prestigious journalism awards in the United States.

    The Committee to Project Journalists described Ressa's latest arrest as "legal harassment" that has reached a critical juncture. "We call on Filipino authorities to immediately release Ressa, drop this spurious cyber libel charge, and cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler," Senior Southeast Asia Representative Shawn Crispin said in a statement.

    Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler tells NPR that Rappler has been spending a large sum every month to pay for lawyers to fight the lawsuits. "Like any digital media outlet, it's not highly profitable," he says. "So when you slap on these lawsuits, you just bleed them."
    He says the CPJ and the Omidyar Network have set up a legal defense fund with a target of half a million dollars which will be available to Rappler.

    Ressa's arrest also threatens to increase self-censorship in the Philippines, Butler says. "This marks a no-go area for the rest of the media on stories that are highly critical or embarrassing to the government."

    After Ressa was taken into custody, a rally formed outside of the National Bureau of Investigation. People chanted "defend press freedom" and "free Maria Ressa."

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by misskit View Post
    "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.
    She sounds like the type of strong-willed person for whom this kind of harrasment will only strengthen her resolve. I hope so, anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by misskit View Post
    the president has repeatedly targeted Rappler, accusing the outlet of producing "fake news."
    That's original! Wannabe dictators and narcissists hate the truth.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
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    Freed on Bail, Rappler’s Ressa Blasts Philippine Government

    Journalist Maria Ressa posted bail Thursday after spending a night in detention, and then blasted what she called the Philippine government’s “weaponization” of a cyber-libel law.

    The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Ressa, chief executive officer of the online news site Rappler, on Wednesday but she could not post bail at that time because the authorities took her into custody after office hours.

    “My stay last night at the NBI really made me think what this is all about, and for me, it’s about two things: It’s abuse of power and weaponization of the law,” Ressa said.

    She is charged with cyber libel, which became an offense under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

    After emerging from detention with her release order, Ressa said the ordeal was “not just about me, not just about Rappler,” but puts into question the rights of an unfettered press guaranteed by the constitution.

    Reza said “someone actually told our reporter last night, ‘Be silent or you’ll be next.’” She was referring to an alleged threat made by officers against a Rappler reporter who shot video of her being taken into custody.

    The government’s suppression of press freedom, she added, was a “death by a thousand cuts to our democracy.”

    The case against Ressa was brought by businessman Wilfredo Keng in late 2017 over a Rappler story published five years earlier. The article identified Keng as the owner of a sports utility vehicle that then-Supreme Court chief justice had used during his 2012 impeachment trial for corruption.

    That year, the Senate found Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of violating a rule about disclosing real assets and net worth. Corona died of natural causes four years later.

    Keng had complained that the report, which cited a background check on him, painted him as having alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. Rappler said it based its article on intelligence reports.

    Ressa and her lawyers contend that she could not be charged for cyber libel since the article was published in May 2012, four months before the law came into force. The Department of Justice, on the other hand, insisted that the article was libelous because the article was updated in 2014, when the law was in effect.

    Media support

    Media organizations have denounced Ressa’s arrest, calling it part of the government’s attempts to shut down Rappler.
    The publication provoked the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte – known for his aversion to criticism and dissent – for its critical reporting about his administration, especially its brutal drug war. It has banned the news organization from covering his activities.

    Aside from the cyber libel case, the government’s Securities and Exchange Commission ordered Rappler’s license revoked for allegedly violating a constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media. The decision is pending with the Court of Appeals.

    Ressa and the organization have faced tax evasion charges as well.

    Social media giant Facebook had also tapped Rappler, along with Vera Files, another Filipino organization, as media organizations involved in its “third-party fact check program.”

    Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government agreed with Facebook’s resolve in combating fake news, but stressed that it had misgivings about its choice to involve Ressa’s organization.

    “We find it ironic, however, that the one chosen by Facebook to verify posts by media outfits or bloggers, whether a story or content is hoax, false or misleading, has a record of spreading fake news,” he said, alluding to Rappler.

    “This, not to mention that its chosen partner also has a reputation of being predisposed against a majority, if not all, of the policies of this administration,” Panelo said.

    He said Filipinos had become more knowledgeable in analyzing news and stressed that it be left to them to determine which sites were used to spread “negative propaganda and biased and distorted stories.”

    Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), an organization representing journalists working for some of the world’s leading news agencies, said it stood with Ressa and Rappler.

    The attempt to jail Ressa, a respected senior journalist, was the “latest legal stratagem that threatens the freedom of the press all of us have fought for and will always defend,” FOCAP said.

    “We in FOCAP will always stand against any move, explicit or otherwise, that is designed to undermine the freedoms that are a lifeline to truly free, relevant and courageous journalism,” the association said.

    It said it would continue to hold Duterte or any other leader accountable whenever necessary.

    “We will speak truth to power with all independent media across the Philippines,” it said.

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