'Persecution by a bully government': Journalists, advocates slam arrest of Maria Ressa
MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – Journalists and sectoral groups slammed the Duterte government for the arrest of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa over cyber libel charges on Wednesday night, February 13.
The case stemmed from a 7-year-old story written before the cyber libel law was enacted. (READ: Despite NBI flip-flop, DOJ to indict Rappler for cyber libel)
Around 5 pm on Wednesday, officers from the National Bureau of Investigation clad in civilian clothes served the arrest warrant at the Rappler headquarters in Pasig City.
Below are the statements of support from various groups and individuals:
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines decried Ressa's arrest, saying "the clearly manipulated charge of cyber libel is a shameless act of persecution by a bully government."
Let's Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI)
Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists
The Philippine government's legal harassment of Rappler and Maria Ressa has now reached a critical and alarming juncture. We call on Filipino authorities to immediately release Ressa, drop this spurious cyber libel charge, and cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler.
Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders
Maria Ressa has no place in prison and the judicial persecution to which she is being subjected is becoming increasingly unacceptable. Digging up an old case that was dismissed in February 2018 is absolutely absurd and confirms that this is not justice but an attempt to gag a media outlet and editor recognized internationally for their professionalism and independence.
We are asking the UN secretary-general to intercede as quickly as possible to end this harassment. At the same time, we ask the court that handles this case to dismiss all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.
The arrest warrant served against @mariaressa, most famous journalist in the Philippines, CEO of @rapplerdotcom, is an obvious violation of press freedom which should be denounced by all the heads of States and governments which can exercise influence on Rodrigo Duterte pic.twitter.com/VDmOvV7fi6— Christophe Deloire (@cdeloire) February 13, 2019
Global Editors Network
The Global Editors Network stands with its board member @mariaressa in these difficult times. We stand by her in the face of government repression and fully support her work. We respect the courage with which she, and @rapplerdotcom, approach journalism. https://t.co/z8HC2f2Rp6— Global Editors Network (@GENinnovate) February 13, 2019
World Editors Forum
The ink had not dried on our protest letter this morning to Philippines President Duterte for the persecution of @MariaRessa when cybercrime division officers arrived at @rapplerdotcom headquarters to arrest her. #journalismisnotacrime #pressfreedom https://t.co/VZp0ErGhAl— World Editors Forum (@WorldEditors) February 13, 2019
Tess Bacalla, executive director of Southeast Asian Press Alliance
The issuance of the arrest warrant and the entering of charges against Maria Ressa should settle any remaining doubt that President Rodrigo Duterte's administration will stop at nothing to keep a free and inquisitive media out of its way.
The unrelenting harassment of the social news network, the latest indubitable demonstration of which is its beleaguered founder having just been served a warrant of arrest after office hours, belies all pretense of upholding press freedom by an administration that has from the get-go shown its abhorrence of an independent and critical press.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN chief international anchor
Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines condemns the arrest of Maria Ressa and stands with her and Rappler in this latest legal stratagem that threatens the freedom of the press all of us have fought for and will always defend.
We in FOCAP will always stand against any move, explicit or otherwise, that is designed to undermine the freedoms that are a lifeline to truly free, relevant and courageous journalism.
We will continue to hold those in power led by President Rodrigo Duterte or any other leader and their administrations accountable every time we need to. We will speak truth to power with all independent media across the Philippines.
Press freedom is one of the democratic pillars of FOCAP, which was founded in 1974 as a bulwark against tyranny and authoritarianism under Ferdinand Marcos.
Probe Productions Incorporated
Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines
We are not experts on the law, but it is only logical that no offense can be committed before it becomes an offense under the law.
That the Duterte administration chose to selectively apply the law to a media outfit that has been critical of its governance is an indication of the lengths it will go to silence criticism.
The Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines stands by its colleagues in Rappler and other media outfits facing threats, harassment, and intimidation.
We call on media to fight for their right to freedom of expression and the public to defend their right to know.
We have shown during the Marcos dictatorship that only with press freedom can democracy be truly achieved.
Let us defend democracy!
Mindanao Independent Press Council
The Mindanao Independent Press Council (MIPC) expresses full solidarity with our colleague in the profession, Ms Maria Ressa of Rappler, even as we condemn the way the legal system has been twisted to effect her arrest.
It should be stated without doubt that the devious designs behind her arrest, coming at an hour when government business has already closed, is tantamount to oppression and a mockery of our legal process.
Maria Ressa should have been given the chance to post bail but was refused the same, and was made to wait overnight inside the NBI office. This is simply inexcusable, and this kind of underhanded tactic has no place in a democratic society.
Simply put, Maria Ressa's arrest shames our democratic traditions and dishonors our values as a nation of laws.
We stand firm with Maria Ressa and Rappler in their quest for justice, and in their pursuit of journalism that puts premium in holding power to account.
We also reiterate calls for the reform of the country's archaic libel laws, including its decriminalization.
We believe that, in this already dangerous environment for working journalists, the government should act as a security guarantor for us to do our job effectively. Sadly, the attack on Maria Ressa and Rappler by government organs are a stark reminder that press freedom is not given, but must be collectively pursued by the Fourth State and the citizenry to which it owes sole allegiance to.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
A dictator wannabe Duterte has continuously proven that he is an enemy of press freedom and the Filipino people.But today, he has ultimately proven his profound fixation to fully silence criticism and deliberately kill freedom of the press by serving a warrant of arrest against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on the basis of trumped-up and politically motivated charges.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines denounces this shameless maneuver and Duterte’s obsession with suppressing media practitioners who only seek to uphold truth and the welfare of the Filipino people, while distracting and bombarding the masses with false information through its fake news-mongers and cohorts.
The Guild and its member publications will not be an exploitable cannon fodder of Duterte’s war against the Philippine press and press freedom. We will not be an instrument of his desperate attempt to deceive the public and render them docile, while he blatantly pursues state-perpetuated violence and anti-people policies.
We will remain true to our duty of exposing the ills of the society and combat Duterte’s deceitful state propaganda. Moreover, we will rouse more publications and alagad ng midya into greater resistance against Duterte’s tyranny and state fascism!
STOP THE ATTACKS! DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM!
Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines section director
Just days after the National Bureau of Investigation announced that it will indict Maria Ressa for cyber libel, a warrant for her arrest was served today. Amnesty International Philippines condemns the arrest based on a trumped-up libel charge. This is brazenly politically motivated, and consistent with the authorities' threats and repeated targeting of Ressa and her team. Authorities should end this harassment, drop the charges, and repeal this repressive law.
In a country where justice takes years to obtain, we see the charges against her being railroaded and the law being used to relentlessly intimidate and harass journalists for doing their jobs as truth-tellers.
Derek Mitchell, president of National Democratic Institute
A free press is an essential ingredient in any democracy, and journalists are often the "canaries in the coal mine" when authoritarians seek to consolidate power against the will of the people.
The Duterte government's latest move to silence the Philippine media should be seen by the international community for what it is: a warning sign that should not go ignored.
Index on Censorship
Index on Censorship condemns the arrest of journalist and Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa by Philippines authorities and calls on the UK to make good on its promises to defend media freedom globally by calling for her release.
"The UK Foreign Office has made media freedom its flagship campaign for 2019. Jeremy Hunt must make good on his promises to champion media freedom worldwide by showing that the actions of the Philippines authorities are unacceptable," said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship, a freedom of expression campaign group.
Ressa was arrested in connection with a story published by her news outlet in May 2012 – four months before the law that Maria Ressa and researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr allegedly violated was enacted. Officers from the National Bureau of Investigation arrested Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa early Wednesday evening, February 13, in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Philippines justice department, according to Rappler.
Maria Ressa is one of the judges for this year's Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards and featured in the 2018 autumn edition of Index on Censorship magazine.
National Union of Peoples' Lawyers
Stripped of its legal trappings and judicial clothing, this arrest over questionable charges that have been excavated are essentially undisguised attacks on press freedom and speech. Together with orchestrated cyberattacks and subtle blackmail on multimedia, this is not only effective censorship but practically prior restraint.
Let there be no doubt about it: whether you are a senator, nun, lawyer, activist, human rights defender, or peace advocate, you will be in the crosshairs of government's whole coercive apparatus if you dissent or criticize so good that they will make you look so bad.
Partido Manggagawa condemns the relentless assault on the freedom of the press that has led to the arrest of Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa. The recent arrest based on questionable legal assumptions is nothing but a blatant attempt by the Duterte administration to harass and silence its critics and clip the wings of the free press under the guise of legal authority. While Malacañang would like the people to believe that the arrest has a genuine legal basis, the people clearly see through the lies and misinformation characterized by the systematic demonization of independent media outlets critical of the incumbent regime. We view the incident as another case of the Duterte regime flexing its political muscle to muzzle the press which has tirelessly worked to keep the current administration accountable.
This recent episode is another of a long list of threats to our civil rights and liberties. The continued harassment of the media is also a grave a threat to the interests of the working class. The free press is an indispensable tool for the working class and their organizations in their struggle for dignified labor and the end of precarious work conditions.
Journalists from media outlets like Rappler have been responsible for uncovering and bringing to public attention countless cases of abuse and exploitation that workers have suffered at the hands of greedy capitalists. We remember Rappler’s extensive coverage of the union Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association’s (PALEA) struggle against the unjust termination of workers and the disregard of their rights at the behest of corporate interests.
We remember the media’s role in exposing this injustice, and now that the freedom of the press is at the crosshairs of the increasingly authoritarian Duterte regime, the workers now lend their support and solidarity with the beleaguered media outlets that continue to stand for truth and justice in a climate of increasing fear and impunity. We stand together with our allies in the press and join the call for justice against the creeping shadow of tyranny.
Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa
The Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa condemns the arrest of Rappler's Maria Ressa. The manner of arrest, the serving of warrant after office hours, and NBI personnel preventing Rappler staff from taking video footage, bespeaks of the sinister nature with which the government is silencing its perceived enemies.
Kalipunan expresses its support and encouragement to the media outfit Rappler, and its chief executive officer Maria Ressa.
Kalipunan calls on the people to dig deeper into the stories this regime wants to bury, and narrate them as they are.
BabaeAko condemns the arrest of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa on a spurious cyber libel charge.
The serving by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents of an arrest warrant past office hours is clear harassment.
Ressa is by no stretch of the imagination a flight risk. She actually returned home to squarely face the cases filed by a government intent on wreaking vengeance on critics.
The arrest clearly intends to shame Ressa. But the shame lies squarely with this vindictive government.
It is ironic that the NBI has been tasked with the arrest as it had earlier recommended the dismissal of the cyber libel charge.
For good reason: the ALLEGED crime happened BEFORE the passage of the cyber libel law.
The government’s insistence on pursuing the case as a continuing crime is indicative of the perverse legal gyrations it has undertaken to persecute perceived enemies, as in the cases of Senator Leila de Lima and former chief justice Lourdes Sereno. This government is bent on silencing the voices of women critics and activists at the forefront of the struggle against human rights violations and tyranny.
A democracy cannot exist without a free press. As our journalists fight to defend press freedom, we call on Filipinos to hold the line with them.
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
[#Philippines] @seapa, other groups issue joint statement of solidarity with @mariaressa and @rapplerdotcom; call for all charges to be droppedhttps://t.co/U0B4cv1YFR#DefendPressFreedom #HoldTheLine #StopTheAttacks #journosafe pic.twitter.com/Zk9IlRhrlu— SEAPA (@seapa) February 15, 2019
Foundation for Media Alternatives
The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) denounces the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. As advocates of human rights and communication rights, FMA stands by press freedom and free speech as fundamental to civil liberty, especially at a time when the very foundations of democracy are under threat.
The arrest of Ressa today, February 13, 2019, minutes before the court closes for processing bail payments, is clearly an underhanded move to harass critical media and tear down the pillars of truth. The case against Ressa rests upon a flawed interpretation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act as an ex post facto law, which is prohibited by the Philippine Constitution. Retroactive application of section 4(C)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act sets a dangerous precedent, especially for a crime as contentious as cyber libel.
This is not the first time that the Duterte government bared its teeth against media organizations that dare report the truth. In 2018, the administration orchestrated a series of regulatory threats to intimidate media organizations such as ABS-CBN and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. It is clear that Ressa’s arrest is not an isolated case, but rather part of a deliberate assault on our liberties, as well as an attack on strong women.
Without a free press, without a public sphere that encourages difference and dissent, individual forces increase their capacity to manipulate and monopolize public opinion. This is how authoritarian regimes are born. We cannot let any attempt to curtail press freedom succeed.
Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation
Joint statement from the members and partners of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation. The "devious grounds" used to arrest @mariaressa are "a dangerous fabrication that affects not just journalists, but everyone." #DefendPressFreedom #FightDisinfo #DefendDemocracy pic.twitter.com/flPyjC768g— John Nery (@jnery_newsstand) February 15, 2019
Concerned Artists of the Philippines
Philippine Center of International PEN
Defend press freedom!
The Philippine Center of International PEN, in solidarity with Rappler and Maria Ressa, condemns in the strongest terms any attempt, subtly or not too subtly, by the state and its instrumentalities and its partisans to threaten, harass, or censor the free and critical press that is the backbone of a democracy. More than ever, with the rise of iron-fisted regimes, an independent and vigilant press has to hold the state and its instrumentalities accountable to the people they always claim to serve, election time or not. We believe, as we declare worldwide through our Charter, that a free and responsible criticism of governments and institutions is imperative if we are to advance as nations towards a more just political and economic order that will let all peoples of the world live in dignity.
We must all hold the line and urge democracy-loving people—Defend press freedom!