Princeton University alumni and staff called on the Trump administration to convince President Rodrigo Duterte to have the charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and its staff dropped.
In a full-page ad in The Washington Post on Tuesday, July 21, at least 424 signatories expressed support for Rappler and Ressa, a Princeton alumna (1986).
“Authoritarians throughout the ages routinely attack the press as the enemy, a strategy calculated to avoid accountability and undermine democracy,” the open letter said.
“[W]e denounce these politically motivated charges against Maria and her colleagues…. Freedom of speech is a human right.”
Citing history, the group said the Trump administration should act against authoritarian governments that violate the rights of citizens such as Ressa.
“Maria is a Filipina and an American citizen. She is standing up for the most American of values: the right to speak truth to power."
“Presidents throughout the history of the United States have used their leverage against authoritarian governments that violate the rights of U.S. citizens abroad; the current administration should do the same. To do otherwise would only diminish America’s role as a leader of the democratic world.”
The group also called on US lawmakers to “reexamine” the millions of dollars the Philippines gets in military aid.
“Our government must exercise its influence to convince the Duterte government to drop all charges against Maria and her journalist colleague Rey Santos, and against Rappler.”
The signatories include:
Since 2017, Rappler, its officers, and former staff have faced at least 12 investigations, complaints and cases – the latest of which involves a second cyber libel complaint filed in February by a businessman close to the Duterte administration. Ressa had to post bail 8 times.
A Manila court convicted her and Santos of cyber libel on June 15. The government also shut down the country’s largest broadcast network ABS-CBN. Both ABS-CBN and Rappler drew the ire of Duterte for their reporting.
Here is a copy of the full-page ad:
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com