[Philippines] Justice department to indict Rappler for cyber libel

Gov’t ruling was based on a law passed after the alleged crime was committed

 

The Department of Justice is set to pursue cyber libel charges against Rappler Inc., its chief executive officer and executive director Maria Ressa, and former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr.

The ruling, a copy of which was obtained Tuesday, 4 February 2019, by Rappler, was dated 10 January 2019.

The charges arose from a story that Rappler published on 29 May 2012 about businessman Wilfredo D. Keng during the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Keng claimed the story was “malicious” and consequently complained to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in October 2017.

The law that Rappler allegedly violated, the Cybercrime Prevention Act (Republic Act No. 10175), was passed on 12 September 2012.

Human rights advocates and journalists’ groups have denounced RA 10175, saying it contains provisions that restrict free expression and press freedom. They have also called for the decriminalization of libel.

In her statement, Ressa said: “This indictment is evidence that the law has been weaponized: the NBI’s own lawyers recommended the case be thrown out, and the prosecutors wrongly named me an editor.”

In November 2018, Rappler was indicted for tax evasion and failure to file tax returns. Known for its critical reports on President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, the online news site had its incorporation papers revoked in January last year, has had its reporters banned from coverage of Malacañan Palace, the President, and other events, and been subjected to other intimidation tactics.

Here’s a timeline of the actions taken by the government against Rappler:

 

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