A high-profile journalist in the Philippines was arrested this week in connection with “cyber-libel” charges for her outspoken views against President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Wednesday, the prominent Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, the CEO of Rappler – a popular news site – was arrested by the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation. Rappler states that the charges come after an article published in 2012. Although the cyber-libel laws only came in to place in 2014, prosecutors argue that the charges are relevant as the article in question was updated in 2014.
Amnesty International is calling Ressa’s indictment “… another absurd legal attack” on the news outlet, and the charges came as no surprise. Many suspect that her arrest was politically motivated. Ressa is an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, specifically critical of the harsh stands Duterte takes on the “war on drugs” in the country.
The Asian director of Human Rights Watch stated that the indictment of Ressa and another journalist sets a dangerous precedent, sending a message that “journalists and human tights activists… will be targeted for exposing [Duterte’s] murderous campaign.”
Time magazine included Ressa in a group of journalists in their 2018 Person of the Year series. Also included in this group was Jamal Khasoggi, a Saudi Arabian Washington Post contributor who was reportedly assassinated and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul late last year.
Khasoggi was an outspoken critic of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who was reportedly killed under the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. A lack of transparency surrounding the case has caused international outrage.
In the Philippines, Duterte’s difficult character has proven challenging for the country to cope with. After declaring a “war on drugs,” the death toll has risen to over 5,000 people.
Although the President repeatedly denies any direct involvement with the case, he has previously fought with representatives from the news outlet, even going to far as to ban them from his official residence. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines dubbed the libel an “an institutionalized threat to free expression, especially in the internet age.”