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MANILA, Philippines – Various student organizations from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) held a protest action condemning the arrest of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa on Friday, March 29, over a charge of violating the Anti-Dummy Law.
Pasig police officers served the warrant of arrest when Ressa landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. Police officers took Ressa and her lawyer on board their police car.
‘Maneuver to silence truth’
Despite Ressa’s posting of bail, the UPD community denounced the arrest saying that it was a maneuver of President Rodrigo Duterte to silence the truth.
Jefferson Losito, chairperson of Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UPD, expressed his dismay over Ressa’s arrest.
“As they say, a free press is the hallmark of a democracy. However, when media practitioners like Ressa are silenced, it poses threats to our freedom of expression as the expression of dissent causes them to be harassed by the state,” Losito said.
“As a future media practitioner, we are called upon to stand firmly and exercise our collective efforts to fight for a free and liberating press. We should use what we learn in our classrooms and apply it to the issues we face as citizens of our country,” Losito added.
Rappler is not alone on the receiving end of attacks against the press.
According to College of Mass Communication professor and Bulatlat associate editor Danilo Arao, during the arrest of Ressa, alternative media organizations Bulatlat, Altermidya, and others filed a civil case against two companies and their officers to thwart cyberattacks being waged against their respective media websites. (READ: Alternative media groups file civil case amid cyberattacks)
Arao stressed alternative and mainstream media should work hand in hand in order to defend press freedom from attack.
“Hindi pwedeng magfunction nang mabuti ang peryodismo kung wala ang mga batayang kalayaan tulad ng freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Ganito ang hamon sa atin ng panahon. Kung mananatili tayong tahimik, walang mangyayari sa ating lipunan,” Arao said.
(Journalism will not function well if we don’t have our basic freedoms like the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. This is the challenge to us right now. If we will remain silent, nothing will happen to our society.)
Ressa was released Friday afternoon after paying P90,000 ($1,716) bail. (READ: Maria Ressa released on bail, warns vs impact of arrests on business)
This is the 7th active court case against Ressa, and the 11th case overall against Rappler, its directors, and staff since January 2018, when the SEC attempted to shut down the company.
Journalists and other groups also slammed the Duterte administration for its ‘judicial harassment’ after Ressa’s arrest. (READ: Journalists, groups decry ‘judicial harassment’ after arrest of Maria Ressa) – Rappler.com
Josiah Antonio is a Rappler intern. He is a 4th year student at the University of the Philippines Diliman taking BA Philippine Studies, major in Journalism and Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino.