Politically Motivated Arrest of Philippine Journalist

Sergio Conner
February 14, 2019

Ressa has questioned the timing of the arrest and the service of the warrant without the information sheet, which indicates how much her bail bond is.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said the charges were trumped up and "brazenly politically motivated".

Duterte's government said the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint. "She should be freed immediately and the Philippines government needs to cease its multi-pronged attack on Rappler".

Rappler staffers posted video on the website's Facebook page on Wednesday which showed plain-clothes NBI agents speaking to employees.

Ressa was charged with cyber libel by the Philippine's Department of Justice.

Rappler continued to publish on Wednesday, including covering Ressa's arrest, and the offending articles appear to still be available on the website.

"These cases are meant to intimidate us", Chay Hofilena, Rappler's investigative editor, told media. "No amount of legal cases, black propaganda, and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line", she said. "These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail", Ressa continued.

The charges were filed by the Philippine Department of Justice over a May 2012 story about businessman Wilfredo Keng and his alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called Ressa's arrest "a shameless act of persecution by a bully government". Ressa says she has been released on bail five times in the past. "This marks a no-go area for the rest of the media on stories that are highly critical or embarrassing to the government".

Official estimates put the number of dead from the Filipino president's widely-criticised war on drugs at 5,000, but a senator recently said it had claimed more than 20,000 lives.

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A statement from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance said Ressa's arrest belied the "pretense" of freedom of the press in the Philippines.

Ressa earned the Time honor through Rappler's consistent criticism of Duterte's policy of promoting extrajudicial killings of drug suspects to eradicate the nation's widespread drug problem, primarily "shabu" or methamphetamines.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said a crime had been committed, a court had found probable cause and Rappler was not being penalized for its reporting.

"The case is ridiculous and the fact that they issue an arrest warrant is a travesty of justice", Ressa told journalists after her arrest.

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of media personnel, also denounced condemned Ressa's detention.

Disini, meanwhile, said they are not sure if former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr., who was also impleaded in the cyber libel case, was served an arrest warrant.

'The manner in which Ressa has been pursued by the government by slapping legal cases against her is not only shameful but also a gross and willful violation of press freedom'.

Ms Ressa has won many worldwide awards for her reporting, and was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her work holding power to account in an increasingly hostile environment.

Worldwide condemnation from dignitaries and press freedom and human rights groups has poured in since plainclothes agents appeared at Rappler to serve an arrest warrant on the charge that carries up to 12 years behind bars.

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