#HOLDTHELINE COALITION CALLS FOR THE 2ND AND 3RD CYBER LIBEL CHARGES AGAINST MARIA RESSA TO BE DROPPED

The #HoldTheLine Coalition demands the Philippines authorities drop the second cyber libel “absurd” charge against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Since 2018, award-winning journalist Maria Ressa and Rappler news website she created in 2012 have faced numerous government investigations, complaints and cases aimed at silencing them for critical reports. Rappler, which specialises in investigative journalism, is critical of President Rodrigo Duterte, who was elected as a president of the Philippines in 2016.

Already in July, after the first libel charge, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Center for Journalists and Reporters Without Borders launched the #HoldTheLine Coalition which is composed of representatives from 78 civil society and journalism organisations. Despite the fact that the global collective was formed to protect Filipino-American journalist, publicize the case and defend her rights, the new cyber libel charge against Maria Ressa adds to the 7 actual court cases.

“We are alarmed by this escalation of threats against Maria Ressa and call on the Duterte regime to cease its baseless legal attacks on Ressa and Rappler in an attempt to silence their public interest reporting. It is absurd that a journalist tweeting about another publication’s story could be jailed. We call for the new charge to be dropped immediately, and for Ressa’s conviction on an earlier criminal cyber libel charge to be quashed,” said #HoldTheLine steering committee.

In February 2019, Ressa tweeted screenshots of a 2002 Philstar.com article with a title “Influential businessman eyed in ex-councilor’s slay”, linking Philippine businessman Wilfredo Keng whose daughter was appointed by President Duterte to the Philippine Women’s Commission with the murder of former Manila councilor. The businessman used the journalist’s tweet to file a second cyber-complaint against her in February 2019. Mr. Keng was also behind the previous cyber libel case for which Maria Ressa was convicted in June 2020.

The case against Maria Ressa is being stirred up against the backdrop of a general deterioration of media freedom in the Philippines, where four journalists were killed this year. As well as an official statemen of condemnation of the court’s decision, the Coalition also launched a petition to publicly support Maria Ressa and independent media of the Philippines, which remains open for signatures.

On January 11, 2021 a new cyber libel charge and the 10th arrest warrant were filed against Maria Ressa, indicating an alarming trend of the state exploiting the criminalization of libel in the Philippines. The #HoldTheLine Coalition issued the following statement:

“The #HoldtheLine Coalition stands with Maria Ressa and Rappler as they stare down yet another criminal cyber libel charge amid escalating legal harassment in the Philippines. This state-enabled harassment campaign serves one purpose: to silence critical journalism aimed at holding power to account and exposing corruption.”


Read about the first case of the #HoldTheLine Coalition here.