MANILA, Philippines – Rappler and its executive editor and CEO, Maria Ressa, will be the first recipients of a legal fund that international media groups are raising for journalists "facing extensive legal battles meant to suppress critical journalism."
The initiative was announced on Tuesday, December 18.
The fund-raising campaign was started by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and First Look Media's Press Freedom Defense Fund (PFDF), with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Reporters Without Borders or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) pledging assistance.
The project has so far received $100,000 in pledges and is aiming to raise $500,000 for news organizations, such as Rappler, "to cover legal fees for news organizations unfairly targeted by governments or powerful figures."
The groups that created the fund are among the most renowned in the journalism world.
"Journalism is under assault globally and we must do everything we can to ensure the free flow of information," said Jim Risen, director of the PFDF. "Legal battles are one of several tactics used to silence journalists. We're thrilled to partner with these leading organizations to support journalists, their sources, and other threatened actors who are providing a vital public service."
Rappler and Ressa will be the first to benefit from this legal fund after the Duterte administration filed 5 separate tax cases against them. The Philippine government's moves against Rappler have triggered an outpouring of support, with Rappler and Ressa receiving accolades, such as the CPJ's Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.
Most recently, Ressa, as well as other journalists under siege, was named Time Person of the Year 2018.
"Rappler has been a leading source of independent information and an inspiration to journalists around the world who continue to report in the face of repression," said Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ.
"We intend to stand with Maria Ressa and Rappler and to support them in their efforts to defend themselves against the prosecution that we view as unjust," he added.
In response, Ressa said on Tuesday, "This year has been challenging on many fronts for us, but there is a silver lining: the attacks against Rappler helped mobilize global support for journalism and the journalists on the front lines."
She continued: "This is an unprecedented alliance for unprecedented times. Thank you, Press Freedom Defense Fund and Committee to Protect Journalists, which, along with the International Center for Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, will help us and other independent journalists #HoldTheLine." – Rappler.com