Filipino journalist Maria Ressa on Monday was found guilty of a defamation case presented by her followers as an attempt to rubbish criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Journalist Maria Ressa, who was tried for defamation in the Philippines, was sentenced on Monday, June 15, by a court in Manila. The ex-CNN journalist has up to six years in prison. His supporters present this trial as an attempt to try the criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Maria Ressa, 56, is co-founder of the online news site Rappler, which has been the subject of numerous court proceedings after publishing critical articles against the head of state, including his bloody and controversial campaign against drug traffic.
“We will resist all attacks against press freedom,” Maria Ressa, who was named by the magazine Time to one of the People of the Year 2018, told reporters after her conviction.
“It’s a setback, but it’s also not unexpected,” she added. “They are trying to scare us, but do not be afraid. Because if you do not exercise your rights, you will lose them.”
Thank you, dear friends, for all your pleasures, prayers, food (yummy), plants, gifts. I feel the power is with us! And for those I still met, we have survived four years of attacks because of strangers and the kindness of strangers. There is so much good!
– Maria Ressa (@mariaressa) June 14, 2020
The journalist was released pending the appeal.
The trial was based on an article written in 2012 about the supposed links between a businessman and the then president of the archipelago’s supreme court.
“You will be next”
The businessman’s complaint was initially rejected in 2017, but the file was then transferred to the prosecutor, who decided to prosecute her and former journalist Reynaldo Santos, who wrote the article. The latter was also found guilty on Monday and remained free on bail.
The lawsuits are the result of a controversial law on cybercrime crime, which harms cybercrime and harassment or child pornography. This law came into force in September 2012, that is, after the publication of the complained article.
But the prosecutor had argued that the correction of a typographic shell in 2014 – Rappler had replaced the word “evation” with “evasion” – meant that the article now falls under the law.
“I was warned: ‘Shut up or you’ll be next …’ That’s partly why I was targeted,” Maria Ressa, who is also a former alumnus, told AFP last week. journalist for the US channel CNN.
Rodrigo Duterte’s government has dismissed allegations that the case was political and says authorities are monitoring the law, including against journalists.
A campaign against freedom of the press in the Philippines
But human rights organizations and associations fighting for freedom of the press claim that this defamation case, the tax lawsuits against Rappler and the government’s efforts to revoke its accreditation on the site are harassment.
Amnesty International said the “attacks” on Rappler were part of a campaign against press freedom in the Philippines.
The ruling comes a month after the cessation of broadcast by ABS-CBN, the most important Filipino media group, after the government unexpectedly issued a decree that they would be terminated due to difficulties in the discussions about renewing his license.
Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to shut down ABS-CBN, a group that, like Rappler, had covered the president’s “war on drugs” for several years, encouraging police to kill drug dealers and addicts. stated.
According to Philippine Drug Control Agency, police have killed at least 5,600 people suspected of drug trafficking during official operations. According to the organizations, the actual balance sheet is at least three times higher.
Another very critical figure in this war on drug trafficking is Senator Leila de Lima, who has been in prison for three years for drug trafficking.
The judiciary’s independence, long related to corruption, has been particularly undermined since Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016, according to rights organizations.