Journalists, groups decry ‘judicial harassment’ after arrest of Maria Ressa

Rappler.com
Journalists, groups decry ‘judicial harassment’ after arrest of Maria Ressa
(UPDATED) Media and various groups describe the string of cases and complaints against Maria Ressa and Rappler as selective justice at work

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Journalists and other groups slammed the Duterte administration for ‘judicial harassment’ after the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over an Anti-Dummy Law charge on Friday, March 29. (Rappler on latest case: Pattern of harassment has not stopped)

Pasig police officers served the arrest warrant immediately after Ressa deplaned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.

There are now 11 complaints and cases filed against Maria Ressa and Rappler. (LIST: Cases vs Maria Resa, Rappler directors, staff since 2018)

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) pointed out the suspicious timing of the case to “make sure Maria would be welcomed home by an arresting team as soon as she stepped off her flight from abroad.”

“This intolerant and vindictive government’s ham-fisted efforts to humiliate Rappler and its officers and personnel have succeeded only in humiliating itself in the eyes of the world and everyone who values freedom and democracy,” they said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) described the string of cases and complaints as judicial harassment.

“The judicial harassment of Rappler by various government agencies is bordering on the absurd…In all, the website and its journalists are currently the targets of proceedings in at least 11 cases, each as spurious as the other,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“Against the government’s manipulation of the judicial system with the aim of silencing troublesome media outlets, Rappler stands as pillar of democracy to be defended at all cost,” he added.

Akbayan Partylist asserted that the cases and complaints show that the law is being weaponized for selective justice.

“The government’s diligence in filing a string of cases against Maria and Rappler clears any doubt that selective justice is hard at work,” said Akbayan Partylist spokesperson Gio Tingson in a statement.

Journalists, groups and netizens alike called on all to hold the line and defend press freedom in light of recent attacks on the press.

Below are other statements of support from various groups and journalists:

World Editors Forum Board

The Board of the World Editors Forum has condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the arrest, again, of Maria Ressa, as she returned to the Philippines today, 29 March 2019.

“The continued targeting of Ressa, her staff, and board of directors, using the Philippines legal system, is a clear attempt to harass and silence her and the independent news operation she runs, Rappler.com,” the World Editors Forum Board said in a statement.

Ressa has faced 7 active legal cases while there are 11 cases overall against Rappler, its directors, and staff in the 14 months since the Securities and Exchange Commission first tried to shut down Rappler.com.

According to Rappler.com, the charges are related to the Securities and Exchange closure order against Rappler in January 2018, which the Court of Appeals has told the SEC to review.

Earlier this week charges were filed against Ressa, who was out of the country, managing editor Glenda M. Gloria, and 5 other members of Rappler’s 2016 board, namely Manuel Ayala, James Bitanga, Nico Jose Nolledo, James Velasquez, and Felicia Atienza. The complaint against Rappler’s former corporate secretary Jose Maria Hofileña was dropped.

Gloria and the 5 board members posted bail Wednesday afternoon ahead of issuance of warrants of arrest. 

Their charges are linked to the claim that they violated the Anti-Dummy Law in issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign investor Omidyar Network.

Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity


Cagayan de Oro-based editors

A group of editors based in Cagayan de Oro also condemned Ressa’s second arrest, saying that it is a case of “weaponizing the law” to assault the press. Nef Luczon, Sunstar Cagayan de Oro editor-in-chief and Philippine News Agency bureau chief, said that “Duterte supporters should not politicize and make the arrest an excuse to discredit and attack press freedom.”

Mindanao Gold Star Daily editor-in-chief Herbie Gomez also said that Ressa “is becoming a journalism heroine while her oppressor is leaving its mark in history as the… enemy of press freedom.”

Akbayan Youth

Akbayan Youth condemns the Duterte administration’s continued suppression of the press, after Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was arrested upon her return to Manila.

“If President Duterte can attack large media organizations like Rappler, what is stopping him from targetting student publications and community media next?” Akbayan Youth spokesperson Cassie Deluria said.

“This chilling normalization of attacks on the press suggests there is a shrinking space for young people to exercise their freedom of expression online and offline. We will not be silenced.”

Human Rights Watch Philippines

The group says: Police “today served an arrest warrant against Maria Ressa, effectively arresting her — again. The charge is for alleged violation of the Philippines’s anti-dummy law. Earlier this week, members of the board of directors of Rappler named in the complaint posted their respective bail.”

“This case against Ressa and members of her board is unprecedented and speaks volumes  of the Duterte administration’s determination to shut the website down for its credible and consistent reporting on the government, particularly the “drug war” and the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and civilians. The administration has shown a relentlessness in its persecution of government critics unseen since the time of the Marcos dictatorship. The charges against Rappler and its people should be dropped.”

College Editors Guild of the Philippines

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

International Federation of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) deplore the arrest of Ressa, which comes just over a month after she was arrested on libel charges. 

The IFJ said: The government-led attack on Rappler and Maria Ressa is a blatant attempt to silence critical voices and control the government narrative in the Philippines. The government of the Philippines cannot simply use to law to restrict the media and press freedom. Journalists across the Philippines will continue to fight this interference and will not be silenced.”

Kabataan party list 

The group says: “Amid the intensified call of the FIlipino people in upholding the constitutionally-mandated freedom of the press, today, March 29, we have witnessed yet another attack on the onslaught of violations on press freedom by the fascist Duterte regime.”

“After her controversial arrest last February, Rappler’s CEO Ma. Ressa was once again arrested early this morning as she departed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). With the Philippine National Police (PNP) serving the warrant of arrest, Ressa is now facing her 7th case charged against her, now for supposedly violating the Anti-Dummy law.”

“Ressa is known for being critical of the administration’s anti-people policies, reporting stories from the grassroots on how these programs have worsen the dire condition of the FIlipino people.”

“Moreover, the alternative press and other online news outfits have been continuously attacked by cyber interceptions. On a report by Quirium Media, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly, and Altermidya have  been targeted by distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) since December 2018.” 

“Kabataan Party list Cordillera vehemently condemns this systematic attack to silence the people and ultimately violate the freedom of the press. Mass media plays a big role in exercising the essence of democracy –  in exposing truth and narrating people’s stories. The relentless attacks against journalists and media outfits is nothing but an attack to silence the people, a state policy that this coward administration has been doing for the longest time.”

“Desperate. This administration is just giving us even more reason to fight!”

– Rappler.com