Philippines: RSF and the #HoldTheLine Coalition welcome reprieve for Maria Ressa, demand all other charges and cases be dropped
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as part of the #HoldTheLine (HTL) Coalition, welcomes a Manila court’s decision to dismiss the second criminal cyberlibel charge brought against celebrated American-Filipino journalist Maria Ressa but demands the immediate withdrawal of all other charges and cases filed against Ressa and her news website Rappler.
Judge Andres Soriano of the Manila Regional Trial Court dismissed the case ‘with prejudice’ today after the plaintiff - controversial businessman Wilfredo Keng - withdrew his complaint, rendering the State’s case against Maria Ressa futile.
In petitioning the court to withdraw his claim, Keng’s legal team stated: "Upon careful reflection, the private complainant has decided to redirect his focus towards helping out with the pandemic, instead of being preoccupied with the prosecution of this case."
The HTL Coalition welcomes this pivot and strongly urges President Duterte and his administration to follow suit and drop all eight remaining cases and charges against Ressa that are still being prosecuted by the State.
“The Duterte government should end its campaign of harassment and persecution against Maria Ressa and Rappler immediately and cease prosecuting the journalist and her news outlet for their public interest journalism,” the HTL Steering Committee said.
Ressa was sentenced to a maximum of six years in jail in June 2020 after being convicted on a trumped-up ‘cyberlibel’ charge prosecuted by the State. That case was based on a complaint made by Wilfredo Keng in connection with Rappler’s reporting on his business activities. Ressa is in the process of appealing that conviction.
The State began prosecuting a second criminal cyberlibel charge against Ressa in late 2020 based on Keng’s second complaint. That complaint - the one that has just been dismissed - pertained to a tweet Ressa posted containing two screen grabs of another news outlet’s coverage of Keng’s activities.
Ressa still faces the prospect of decades in jail associated with the lingering suite of cases and charges against her.
The Philippines is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
Note: The #HoldTheLine Coalition currently comprises 80 organisations. 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 organisations.