Philippine journalist critical of President Duterte arrested

Ressa was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her reporting

Award-winning Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has been freed on bail, the day after her arrest on charges of "cyber-libel" drew worldwide condemnation.

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. Rappler, founded in 2012, rejected the ruling.

The February 12 arrest warrant, issued by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46, ordered the NBI to arrest Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr., a former Rappler researcher, for allegedly violating Section 4 of Republic Act 10175 or the "Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012".

Arrest warrant being served right now vs Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

She said in a statement: 'We are not intimidated.

In the tax case, the government accuses Rappler Holdings Corp., Ressa and the site's accountant of failing to pay taxes on 2015 bond sales that it alleges netted gains of 162.5 million pesos ($3 million).

Atty. JJ Disini, Ressa's legal counsel, said they will post bail on Thursday morning and will file a motion for reconsideration on the Department of Justice's decision to indict her and Rappler for cyber libel.

The article included allegations the businessman was linked to illegal drugs and human trafficking, and that a auto registered in his name had been used by the country's chief justice.

Keng had denied the allegation and requested Rappler take down the article.

"Ms Ressa being a media practitioner and a high ranking officer of a media outfit critical of the president's programmes and policies has nothing to do with the present circumstances she is now in", presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, adding that the administration respected the judiciary and did not meddle in how it handles cases in courts. It "has nothing to do with freedom of expression or freedom of the press", he said, adding, "I think I'd rather advise Maria Ressa just focus on her defense".

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In the aftermath of Duterte's election in 2016, Ressa and Rappler were among the fist to sound the alarm on how fake news, particularly fake news on Facebook, shaped the Philippine election - a line of coverage that proved particularly prescient.

Rappler is one of several news agencies deemed critical of Duterte's policies.

Staff have also described professional hurdles and threats.

The typically outspoken Duterte has yet to issue any public comment on the Rappler situation at press time.

The administration, its social media trolls, and government propagandists have launched repeated attacks against Rappler and its staffers, at one point banning one of its reporters, Pia Ranada, from covering the presidential premises. Multimedia Head Lilibeth Frondoso was imprisoned with her newborn child.

Who is Maria Ressa and what is Rappler?

"The arrest of Maria Ressa is an outrageous attempt by the Philippines government to silence a news organisation that has been courageously investigating corruption and human rights violations in the country", IPI director of advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said in a statement. "Like any digital media outlet, it's not highly profitable", he says.

He says the CPJ and the Omidyar Network have set up a legal defense fund with a target of half a million dollars which will be available to Rappler.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said: 'The arrest of Ressa on the clearly manipulated charge of cyberlibel is a shameless act of persecution by a bully government. "This marks a no-go area for the rest of the media on stories that are highly critical or embarrassing to the government". Officers of the National Bureau of Investigations reportedly ordered the journalists them to stop filming and taking photos. Duterte's government responded to the accolade by insisting that press freedom in the country remained "robust" and that Duterte "cannot intrude into that".


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