press freedom

Princeton alumni to Trump: Convince Duterte to drop charges vs Maria Ressa, Rappler

Camille Elemia

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Princeton alumni to Trump: Convince Duterte to drop charges vs Maria Ressa, Rappler

PRESS FREEDOM. Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria at the Manila Trial Court on June 15, 2020 attends the promulgation of a cyber libel case file against her and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santo Jr. by businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

In a full-page ad in The Washington Post, at least 400 Princeton alumni also call on the US government to act against authoritarian governments

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:

  • George P. Shultz, former secretary of State
  • Mike McCurry, former State Department spokesperson and White House press secretary
  • John Bellinger, former legal counsel to the National Security Council
  • Rick Stengel, former undersecretary of State for public diplomacy
  • Anne Marie Slaughter, CEO of think tank New America and former director of policy planning at the US State Department
  • Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell (Democratic Party)
  • Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer (Democratic Party)
  • Steve Engelberg, editor in chief of independent news group Pro Publica
  • Eric Lander, Founding Director of the Broad Institute
  • Former Iowa Rep. Jim Leach
  • Former California Rep. Ed Zschau
  • Former Oklahoma Rep. Mickey Edwards
  • Ben Taub, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
  • Jason O. Gilbert, humorist for The New Yorker
  • Joe Stephens, Founding Director of Princeton’s Program in Journalism
  • David Abromowitz, real estate attorney and Chief Public Policy Officer of YouthBuild USA
  • Anne Tergesen, reporter for The Wall Street Journal
  • Jon Ort, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Princetonian
  • Ben Ball, Managing Editor of The Daily Princetonian
  • Tom Weber, President of the Board of Trustees of The Daily Princetonian
  • Kathy Kiely, Trustee Emerita of The Daily Princetonian

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:


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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.