#CourageON: A year after Maria Ressa’s cyberlibel conviction
Groups call for dropping of cases against Ressa and Rappler
One year passed since award-winning journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and Rappler writer Reynaldo Santos, Jr. were convicted of cyberlibel in the Philippines. Various local and international media groups, including IAWRT, and journalists worldwide call for the dropping of all charges against her and Rappler.
On June 15, 2020, Ressa was convicted to a maximum sentence of six years in jail for a story “a story that was published 8 years earlier, at a time when the law we supposedly violated did not even exist, for a story I did not write, edit or supervise,” as she described in the IAWRT World Press Freedom Day 2021 online protest.
That case was based on a complaint made by businessman Wilfredo Keng in connection with Rappler’s reporting on his business activities. Ressa is in the process of appealing that conviction.
Ressa said she has posted bail eight times in 2019, paying more than a known and convicted plunderer and human rights violator in the country. Her lawyer Amal Clooney said she could go to jail for 100 years with all the cases that have been filed against her and Rappler.
The #HoldTheLine coalition of more than 80 groups, led by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders welcomed the dismissal of the second cyberlibel charge by Keng against Ressa.
On June 1, Judge Andres Soriano of the Manila Regional Trial Court dismissed the case ‘with prejudice’ today after plaintiff Wilfredo Keng withdrew his complaint.
The second case was filed in late 2020 and pertained to a tweet Ressa posted containing two screen grabs of another news outlet’s coverage of Keng’s activities.
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.”
Ressa continues to fight for her freedom.
Those interested to show support to Ressa may do so by:
- Donning a mask with one of Maria’s most popular rallying cries for fighting back: #CourageON and #HoldTheLine.
- Uploading a digital “mask” to your social profile photos, and/or order a physical mask online and post a photo of yourself wearing it.
- Spreading the word – tweet and post about this, use the hashtags #CourageON and #HoldTheLine
- Signing the petition: https://rsf.org/en/free-mariaressa
Ressa is the winner of the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award, CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award and the 2021 laureate of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.