U.K. 'deeply concerned' by Maria Ressa arrest

MANILA, Philippines – The United Kingdom voiced its concern over the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, as the country leads a global campaign to support press freedom worldwide.

"Deeply concerned by Maria Ressa's arrest," said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a tweet Thursday evening, February 14.

"The determination of her and others in speaking truth to power is vital for the health of all democracies," Hunt added.

Hunt's tweet came with a link to a Guardian editorial published Wednesday, February 13, calling on the public to support media freedom and its advocates, including Ressa. 

 

In a separate tweet, British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said: "I was concerned by #MariaRessa's arrest last night. I was honored to welcome her and many of our media colleagues to last week's local launch of the UK's global media freedom campaign. The British government supports a free media."

Pruce, in a February 7 reception for Philippine media, announced that the British government "will this year be leading a global campaign in support of media freedom." Ressa and other Rappler journalists attended this reception.

Pruce said in his speech on February 7: "A free media is an essential ingredient to a well-functioning democracy and the rules-based international system. Without it there is no accountability. A free press is bound up with good governance, democracy, equality and poverty reduction."

The UK is now one of the countries that have voiced concern about Ressa's arrest. 

In a rare statement, the United States on Thursday stressed the need for due process in the cyber libel case against Ressa. Representing Canada, Canadian Foreign Minister Chyrstia Freeland also said she was "deeply troubled by reports" that Ressa was arrested. 

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Ressa on Wednesday, February 13, due to a cyber libel case against her and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Ressa was detained overnight in the NBI's Manila headquarters, and posted a P100,000 ($1,900) bail on Thursday. Santos also posted a P100,000 bail on Friday, February 15.

Ressa is facing a string of cases in the Philippines as the Duterte administration slams Rappler for its critical coverage. International news groups and journalists have condemned the threats to press freedom under Duterte's watch. (READ: Maria Ressa's arrest part of broader gov't campaign, say rights groups) – Rappler.com

*$1 = P52.48

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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