Filipino-American journalists send letter of support for Ressa, Santos, and Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American journalists banded together and sent a letter of support for Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr following their high-profile cyber libel conviction on June 15.
The letter, sent out to news media on Tuesday, June 23, conveyed "support of your work, courage, and dedication in your search for truth." Co-signed were 76 Filipino-American journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.
In the letter, the journalists said they felt the conviction of Ressa and Santos "poses threats to freedom of the press and democracy. We believe that the charges should be dropped and demand a reversal of the court’s decision."
The letter goes on to say:
"We in the States have always taken pride in The First Amendment in the US Constitution that guarantees the freedom of the press. It has protected and enabled us to collect information and report the truth. In the Philippines, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are written into the 1987 constitution.
"Sadly, under the current administration, attacks on American journalists have put the U.S. on the list of the most dangerous places for journalists to work. Worldwide, according to Reporters Without Borders, at least 63 professional journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2018 – a 15% increase over the previous year. For years, the Philippines has ranked as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work and, according to a 2018 report by the International Federation of Journalists, is the worst in terms of impunity."
The Philippines currently ranks 136th out of 180 countries listed in the World Press Freedom Index, according to the level of freedom given to journalists.
"The role of the media, by holding the powerful accountable, threatens the motives of those who want to remain in power through any means," the letter continued.
"We believe that the work of the Philippine press is vitally important in preserving the right of citizens to know the truth, and is a bulwark against forces that threaten the common good."