In rare move, U.S. stresses need for due process in Maria Ressa case

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The United States released a rare statement on Thursday, February 14, stressing the need for due process in the cyber libel case against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

"We hope the charge against journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa will be resolved quickly in accordance with relevant Philippine law and international standards of due process," said the US embassy in Manila.

We hope the charge against journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa will be resolved quickly in accordance with relevant Philippine law and international standards of due process. https://t.co/v0pkP6FTKt "> pic.twitter.com/v0pkP6FTKt — U.S. Embassy in the Philippines (@USEmbassyPH) https://twitter.com/USEmbassyPH/status/1095929611656052736?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw ">February 14, 2019 https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js " charset="utf-8">

 

The US rarely releases statements on specific Philippine issues such as this. Foreign embassies, after all, avoid commenting on domestic controversies involving the sovereignty of another country. The US is however an advocate of the rule of law, free speech, and democracy.

On Twitter, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright denounced Ressa's arrest, calling it "outrageous."

"The arrest of journalist Maria Ressa by the Philippine government is outrageous and must be condemned by all democratic nations," said Albright. "I'm proud to call her a friend and to stand with her in defending the principles of a free press."

The arrest of journalist @mariaressa by the Philippine government is outrageous and must be condemned by all democratic nations. I’m proud to call her a friend and to stand with her in defending the principles of a free press. https://t.co/Hy09UFsARl — Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) February 13, 2019

 

Canada on Thursday also issued a statement about Ressa's arrest.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist herself, said she is "deeply troubled by reports" that Ressa was arrested.

"A free press is a bedrock of democracy. Canada reiterates its call for due process to be respected and for journalists to be free from harassment and intimidation," Freeland said.  

The National Bureau of Investigation arrested Ressa on Wednesday, February 13, due to cyber libel, and detained her overnight in its Manila headquarters. Ressa posted bail on Thursday.

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

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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