New York, June 15, 2020: Media Development Investment Fund today condemned the conviction of Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor of independent news website Rappler.com, as an “outrageous abuse of the judicial process”.
Ms. Ressa was convicted of “cyberlibel” over an article published by Rappler in 2012 that reported that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was using the car of “controversial” businessman Wilfredo Keng, who allegedly had a “shady past”. She was convicted under the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012, which was not passed until three months after the alleged offence. Ms. Ressa, who is on bail pending an appeal, faces up to six years in prison.
“This is an outrageous abuse of the judicial process,” said Harlan Mandel, MDIF CEO. “The retroactive application of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, brought six years past expiration of the statute of limitations, violates all norms of due process. Maria has been convicted for the independence of Rappler’s journalism and for daring to speak truth to power.”
Rappler’s tough reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte has led to a systematic campaign of intimidation against Ms. Ressa, who has seven more cases pending against her that together could lead to her imprisonment for almost 100 years.
“We call for all charges against Ms. Ressa to be dropped,” said Mr. Mandel. “We also call on the Philippine authorities to end the campaign of intimidation and to fully respect the right of Ms. Ressa and Rappler to report freely on the news, in line with the country’s international obligations.”
Together with 60 media development organisations and civil society groups, MDIF joined a coalition in support of Maria Ressa and independent media in the Philippines. We urge all supporters of press freedom to join #HoldTheLine campaign and sign and share the petition calling for the Philippine government to drop all charges and cases against Ressa and Rappler, and end pressure on independent media in the Philippines.
Photo by Dante Diosina Jr/Rappler/Facebook