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FCC Congratulates Ressa, Muratov for Nobel Peace Prize

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong congratulates journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for winning the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded ”for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

The FCC applauds the Nobel Committee for its recognition of two courageous and deserving journalists, and for the message in defense of press freedom that the award sends.

Ressa, 58, is the co-founder and chief executive of Rappler, a digital news outlet in the Philippines. She has spoken at the FCC on several occasions, and is a tireless advocate of the free press and efforts to combat misinformation across the region and beyond. Links to her speeches and events at the club can be found below.

https://www.fcchk.org/fake-news-authoritarian-regimes-and-women-in-journalism-the-fccs-3rd-journalism-conference-leaves-no-stone-unturned/

https://humanrightspressawards.org/4756.html

Maria Ressa and Caoilfhionn Gallagher express ‘shock’ at Hong Kong national security law

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and international human rights lawyer, Caoilfhionn Gallagher, have expressed shock at new national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong.

FCC First Vice President, Eric Wishart, interviews Maria Ressa and Caoilfhionn Gallagher on July 9. FCC First Vice President, Eric Wishart, interviews Maria Ressa and Caoilfhionn Gallagher on July 9.

Joining an FCC webinar on her fight against her recent conviction in the Philippines on cyber libel charges, Ressa was unequivocal when asked what was her reaction to the introduction of the law: “Shock”.

“When we were looking at the protests and this surge for press freedom… I understood why and we all were trying to understand, why is that not happening here? What’s the difference?

“What we’re seeing is really a geopolitical power shift and COVID-19 is helping that. But this is also where I feel Hong Kong is punching above its weight, what you guys do will impact the rest of us. And the Philippines is also punching above its weight in terms of a geopolitical power balance because President Duterte’s shift from the US to China and Russia. That is shifting the power balance in the South China Sea.”

Gallagher, a renowned lawyer who leads Ressa’s international defence team alongside Amal Clooney, expressed “shock and concern”. She was also deeply concerned by Carrie Lam’s July 7 comments in which the Hong Kong Chief Executive said she would give guarantees about press freedom to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and journalists if they also give “a 100% guarantee that they will not commit any offences under this piece of national legislation”.

“That is a promise that’s not worth the paper it’s not written on, if I can put it that way, when you then look at the law, which is breathtakingly broad. I read with some horror the description of the crime of subversion, undermining the power and authority of central government. So the crimes themselves are exceptionally broad.”

She added: “I’m very concerned by the provisions relating to regulation and surveillance. The part that someone suspected of breaking this breathtakingly broad law can be wiretapped and put under surveillance is of serious concern to journalists.”

On her legal fight against her June conviction and sentence of six years in prison, Ressa said she was “geared up for battle”.

The executive editor of news website Rappler.com was arrested last year over an allegedly defamatory article published in 2012 which linked a businessman to trafficking and drug smuggling. She denied charges of cyber libel, calling them “baseless”. The move came several months after a warrant was issued for her arrest on seven charges of tax fraud — a case she called “politically motivated”. Rappler has been a frequent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.

On June 29, Ressa and co-defendant Reynaldo Santos Jr filed a motion for partial reconsideration, appealing to Manila Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa to reconsider her decision.

The FCC issued a statement deploring the conviction, saying it set a precedent and could have a “chilling effect on the press in the Philippines and across the region”.

Club president Jodi Schneider said: “Press freedom, already endangered in the Philippines, is now further undermined with this high-profile verdict.”

So much at stake if Rappler’s Maria Ressa is jailed, says leading press freedom advocate

The conviction of journalist and Rappler founder, Maria Ressa, is a “Waterloo moment” for press freedom, says a leading advocate for the protection of journalists.

FCC First Vice President, Eric Wishart, interviews Joel Simon and Amelia Brace. FCC First Vice President, Eric Wishart, interviews Joel Simon and Amelia Brace.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told an FCC webinar that the full force of the press freedom movement was being deployed to protect Ressa, who was sentenced to six years in prison by a Philippines court on June 15 for cyber libel. Ressa and Rappler’s reporting has been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

Simon, a friend of Ressa, said her conviction would have far-reaching consequences and that it was crucial to prevent her being jailed.

“We have to win because if we do not win, if we cannot keep Maria Ressa out of prison, then every tyrant and every repressive government will feel that they can act against journalists without consequence. So much is at stake. It’s an absolute Waterloo moment for the press freedom movement,” he said.

Joining Simon on the June 18 webinar on the growing threats to journalists during the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the United States was Australian journalist Amelia Brace. The US correspondent for Australia’s Seven Network was attacked along with her TV crew by police just yards from the White House as the area was cleared to make way for a presidential photo opportunity. Footage shows how cameraman Tim Myers was injured when a police officer in riot gear hit him with a shield before punching the camera. Brace was struck several times across the back with a baton and hit by pepper balls ahead of President Donald Trump’s walk from the White House to nearby St. John’s Church.

The video of the attack has been watched on the network’s video channel more than 8 million times. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the incident as ‘troubling’ and called for an investigation.

“It was a terrifying moment and quite a violent moment as a journalist,” Brace admitted. “The heavy-handed approach by police was completely disproportionate.”

Simon added that the CPJ’s U.S. Press Freedom Tracker had documented more than 400 attacks on journalists by police in the United States since the protests began. He said he believed that the militarisation of the police force was the dynamic that accounted for the significant rise in attacks on credentialized reporters covering the nationwide demonstrations.

“This is how the police in the United States are trained,” he said.

Watch the webinar

FCC Hong Kong deplores guilty verdict against Maria Ressa, Reynaldo Santos

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong deplores the guilty verdict against Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa and its former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos on cyber libel charges.

Maria Ressa at the May 17 FCC club lunch. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Maria Ressa at the May 17 FCC club lunch. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

A court in Manila sentenced them to up to six years in jail but they can appeal the verdict.

“The FCC is gravely concerned about the precedent this sets and the possible chilling effect on the press in the Philippines and across the region,” said FCC president Jodi Schneider. “Press freedom, already endangered in the Philippines, is now further undermined with this high-profile verdict.”

Ressa, executive editor of news website Rappler.com, was arrested last year over an allegedly defamatory article published in 2012 which linked a businessman to trafficking and drug smuggling. She denied charges of cyber libel, calling them “baseless”. The move came several months after a warrant was issued for her arrest on seven charges of tax fraud — a case she called “politically motivated”. Rappler has been a frequent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.

Ressa co-founded Rappler in 2012 and turned it into one of the region’s most influential media outlets, even as the Philippines government arrested her and made efforts in the courts to silence her and the publication.

With a career in journalism spanning more than 30 years in Asia, she has won multiple awards for her work, including the 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. In December 2018, Ressa was named a Time Person of the Year, and most recently was chosen as among Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019.

She has been a regular speaker on press freedom at FCC Hong Kong events.

The conviction of Ressa under the Philippines’ 2012 cyber libel law confirms widespread fears it would be used against online journalists and would harm the freedom of the press in the country. The law allows for up to 12 years in prison for a conviction of cyber libel, and cases can be brought as many as 12 years after an article or post, posing grave risks to journalists who wish to report and write critically on those in power.

Maria Ressa on press freedom, dictators, social media, and the day George Clooney made her coffee

The biggest battle for our generation is the battle for truth and as journalists, we must continue to fight for it, said Rappler founder and press freedom fighter Maria Ressa.

Maria Ressa at the May 17 club lunch. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Maria Ressa at the May 17 club lunch. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Appearing at the FCC on a travel bond amid several pending court actions in the Philippines, the journalist at the centre of a harassment campaign directed by President Rodrigo Duterte discussed her country’s “descent into tyranny” but admitted that the pressure on her and her reporters “has made us stronger”.

During the lively May 17 guest appearance, Ressa gave her views on why so many populist leaders were being elected, in part blaming the rise of the internet and social media and their role in the spread of disinformation.

She also talked about the pressure that comes with being an international symbol of the fight for press freedom, which sees her traveling the world to meet global leaders and human rights advocates. In one anecdote, Ressa recalled a recent meeting with leading human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, and her actor husband George, who made the two women Nespresso – for which the actor is global brand ambassador – as they discussed human rights issues.

Watch the full video

FCC appalled at arrest of Philippine journalist Maria Ressa

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is appalled at the Philippine government’s efforts to silence Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa.

Maria Ressa, Rappler Maria Ressa, Rappler

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.

FCC appalled at efforts to silence Philippines news website Rappler

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is appalled at the ongoing efforts to intimidate and silence Rappler, a news organisation that has pushed to hold the government accountable despite repeated attacks from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Monday, Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa turned herself into authorities after a warrant was issued for her arrest on five charges of tax fraud. She paid bail and was ordered to return Friday for arraignment on charges that Rappler provided false information to tax authorities.

Outside the court, Ressa called the charges “manufactured” and “politically motivated.”

Earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s operating license because it violated the country’s restrictions on foreign ownership of domestic media. The organisation has continued operating after an appellate court ordered the SEC to review its findings.

Rappler, which denies all wrongdoing, has defied Duterte’s threats and intimidation to expose corruption within the police force, which has led the deadly crackdown against drugs, as well as in government ranks.

Duterte has a long track record of going after his critics. Shortly after he was elected in 2016, he told reporters that some 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 is a brave and powerful voice against injustice in a region where the powerful regularly seek to silence those who shine a light on misdeeds.

The FCC calls on authorities to respect due process in the case against Ressa, and support the right of Rappler and other media outlets to operate freely and safely. We also stand with Philippine media groups, including the National Union of Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, in denouncing the efforts to intimidate Rappler.

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