A group of citizens fighting disinformation in the Philippines issued a statement on Monday, November 29, asking the Philippine Court of Appeals to allow Rappler CEO Maria Ressa to attend the December 10 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony in person.
“This historic occasion, whereby a Filipino will be honored to receive the most prestigious international award, cannot be understated,” said the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) in its statement, pointing out that only 109 individuals have been given the award from 1901 to 2021.
“This brings great honor and recognition not only to Ms. Ressa but to the Philippines, Filipinos both present and unborn, and all journalists whom she represents through this award. Her presence in the ceremony is symbolic, urgent, and necessary,” they added.
Vouching for Ressa against the claim of Solicitor General Jose Calida that she is a “flight risk,” the group said Ressa has been allowed by courts to go abroad 36 times and she has returned to the Philippines after each trip.
Freedom of expression
They also disagreed with Calida’s assertion that Ressa has shown a “total lack of respect for the judicial system,” owing to her “recurring criticisms of the Philippine legal processes in the international community.”
“We firmly contend that Ms. Ressa has not made any contemptuous statements directed against the Court and the legal system. We respectfully plead that while the Philippines remains a democracy, Ms. Ressa’s exercise of her right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under the Constitution, must be protected and not weaponized against her,” said MAD.
It was on November 8 when Calida filed an opposition before the CA seeking to block Ressa from flying to Oslo, Norway, to receive her Nobel Peace prize.
The CA would have to resolve the motion and the opposition, ideally before December 10, the Nobel ceremony in Oslo.
Ressa is in Harvard in Boston, USA, for a series of lectures, the first time she was authorized by the CA to travel after her 2020 lower court conviction for cyber libel. She is due to return to the Philippines early this week, although her motion for permission to travel also offered an alternative – which is for her to be allowed to travel to Oslo straight from the US.
In his opposition, Calida maintained that personally receiving a Nobel Prize is not basis for urgent and necessary travel.
Ressa’s international lawyer, renowned human rights counsel Amal Clooney, said in a November 22 press conference that they remain hopeful that she would be able to travel to Oslo because of the Harvard precedent.
“We have every hope that she will be permitted to go to Oslo. And if that doesn’t happen, then of course, we have to just consider that at the time but we hope that won’t be the case,” Clooney said.
The only two times that a Nobel laureate didn’t get to receive their prizes in person were in 2010 when China barred dissident Liu Xiaobo, and in 1935 when the Nazis barred journalist Carl von Ossietzky. Ressa had cited the Liu incident in her motion. – Rappler.com