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.