The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is appalled at the Philippine government’s efforts to silence Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa.
On Wednesday, Ressa was arrested on a cyber libel complaint filed by a businessman for an article published in 2012. She has denied wrongdoing in the case, calling it “baseless”.
The move came several months after a warrant was issued for her arrest on five charges of tax fraud — a case she called “politically motivated.”
“We are not intimidated,” Ressa told reporters.
“No amount of legal cases, black propaganda and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line,” she said. “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.”
Rappler has repeatedly pushed to hold the government accountable despite repeated attacks from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. It has exposed corruption within the police force, which has led the deadly crackdown against drugs, as well as in government ranks.
Duterte has repeatedly gone after his critics, and even said in 2016 that some reporters could be legitimately killed. “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” he said at the time.
Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for more than 30 years and has won multiple awards for her work, including the 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. She has repeatedly sought to shine a light on misdeeds in a region where the powerful have increasingly sought to silence any media outlets that expose wrongdoing.
The FCC has previously honoured outstanding journalism conducted by Maria Ressa and her website Rappler, and expresses its staunchest support to her and her team to face this new challenge. It also calls on authorities to respect due process in the cases against Ressa, and uphold the right of Rappler and other media outlets to operate freely and safely.