New libel complaint against Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa in the Philippines
As Maria Ressa flies to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, the #HoldtheLine (HTL) Coalition has condemned ongoing State-linked legal harassment of the Nobel Laureate after new libel complaints were filed against Ressa’s Rappler and six other news organizations - by a senior member of the Philippine cabinet.
The complaints were filed with the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office by the Duterte administration’s Energy Secretary, Alfonso Cusi. The complaint against Rappler names CEO Maria Ressa, Executive Editor Glenda M. Gloria, Managing Editor Chay Hoflieña and reporter Aika Rey individually.
“We condemn, in the strongest terms, this latest act of lawfare against Maria Ressa and Rappler. The complaint is clearly State-linked and politically motivated, and we hope the Prosecutor chooses not to escalate this complaint to yet another criminal libel charge against Ressa and her colleagues,” the HTL Coalition Steering Committee said. Ressa continues to fight seven existing legal cases brought by the State, including an appeal against her 2020 conviction for criminal cyber libel, which could see her jailed for up to six years.
“This latest attack, spearheaded by a senior member of the Philippine government, spotlights the need to urgently decriminalise libel in the Philippines. It has become a political tool used for the legal harassment of journalists and news outlets by the Duterte administration. It chills freedom of expression, suppresses independent journalism, and assaults the public’s right to know. It also directly contravenes international law.”
The Duterte administration strongly opposed Ressa’s application to travel to Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in person, but the Philippine courts overruled the government’s objections, and she is now en route to Oslo.
In its announcement of the prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was honoring Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard press freedom.
The Philippines is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
Note: The #HTL Coalition comprises more than 80 organizations around the world. This statement is issued by the #HoldTheLine Steering Committee, but it does not necessarily reflect the position of all or any individual Coalition members or organizations.