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July 26th, 2020

Free Maria Ressa and support independent media!

topic:Political violence
type:Petition
by:Yair Oded

Maria Ressa, a prominent journalist in the Philippines and co-founder of the award winning news site Rappler, is facing multiple criminal charges that human and press rights activists overwhelmingly view as retribution for Ressa’s reporting on government corruption and crimes.

Ressa, who was named Person of the Year by Times Magazine in 2018, has been instrumental in scrutinising President Duerte’s corruption scandals and his bloody anti-drug campaign which, according to some reports, resulted in the murder of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

Among other cases, Ressa (as well as her former Rappler colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr.) is facing a “cyber libel” charge involving a reporting on corruption from 2012, which hinges on the correction of a typo and supposed slandering of businessman Wilfredo Keng, whom the government considers a private citizen. On 25 July, 2020, the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Manila refused to reconsider Ressa’s 15 June conviction in the libel case, ruling that no new matters had been raised to merit re-deliberation. 

The libel charge alone could put Ressa behind bars for 6 years. If found guilty in the other cases brought against her, which involve foreign ownership and taxes, Ressa could be sentenced for nearly a century in jail. 

A petition launched by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) now calls for public support of Maria Ressa and independent media in the Philippines. It has been initiated on behalf of the #HoldTheLine Coalition. 

“These cases are the latest offense in the Duterte government’s wider campaign to stifle public interest reporting. In May, the government ordered the closure of ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest and most-watched news broadcaster,” the petition reads. 

“Impunity for violence against journalists presents another threat to journalists, particularly those reporting critically on Duterte’s violent “war on drugs”. At least seven journalists have been killed because of their work in the Philippines since Duterte came to power in 2016 - the latest as recent as May 2020.”

Please take a moment to sign the petition calling on Duerte’s government to drop all charges against Ressa, Santos, and the Rappler and stop its attacks on independent journalists and media outlets. To be of extra help, please share the petition on your platforms using the #HoldTheLine hashtag. 

Image: Diseño Ciampagna

rsf.org