International groups renew call for dismissal of all charges vs Maria Ressa, Rappler

After a Manila court dismissed the cyber libel case against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Rambo Talabong on Tuesday, August 10, a coalition of 80 international journalists, human rights, and advocacy groups renewed its call for the dropping of all other charges against Ressa and her company.

The #HoldTheLine Coalition welcomed the dismissal of the cyber libel case against Ressa and Talabong, which happened two months businessman Wilfredo Keng withdrew his second cyber libel case against Ressa.

“We welcome the overdue withdrawal of this trumped-up charge against Maria Ressa, which was the latest in a cluster of cases intended to silence her independent reporting," the coalition's steering committee said.

"We call for the remaining charges against Ressa and Rappler to be dropped without further delay, and other forms of pressure against them immediately ceased,” it added.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a coalition member, said the dismissal of the cyber libel case "is the right step forward for journalist rights in the Philippines."

It reiterated its call "for the government to drop the remaining charges and to allow Ressa to report without fear of harassment or arrest."

“We hope this is only the beginning of similar actions to follow. #CFWIJ hopes to see all cases against Maria dropped and until then, is proud to #HoldTheLine,” the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) said in a tweet.

On Tuesday, the Regional Trial Court of Manila Branch 24 dismissed the case "with prejudice" against Ressa and Talabong after the complainant, Ariel Pineda, submitted an affidavit of desistance, which he affirmed in open court. The two and Pineda agreed to "update the story with information that was obtained after the case was filed," Ressa and Talabong's lawyer, Ted Te, had said.

In June, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CFWIJ, and leaders of the United States National Press Club also called for the dismissal of all the remaining cases which they said are “intended to silence” Ressa.

In the RSF World Press Freedom Index, the Philippines was ranked 138th out of 180 countries. 

Ressa has seven more active court cases in various courts, all related to Rappler's Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) which were the basis of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shutdown order in 2018.

Ressa's international legal team led by Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street Chambers has pointed out that the other active court cases can result to a "lifetime behind bars" for Ressa. They added that these cases "have provoked international condemnation, including from the USA, the UK, Canada, the UN, the EU and the Media Freedom Coalition of States." –