Originally published on the Facebook page of NUJP on 2 December 2018.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) warns government against pursuing plans to arrest Rappler CEO Maria Ressa when she returns to the country tonight.
Arresting Maria will send a clear signal that the country’s democracy is fast receding under a feckless administration that cannot abide criticism and free expression and will go to ridiculous lengths to muzzle all those it does not agree with.
Government can surely pursue its case without needing to arrest Maria and haul her off to jail – unless, of course, the intention is really to humiliate and intimidate her.
President Rodrigo Duterte has never bothered to disguise his loathing for Rappler and critical media in general, repeatedly threatening to shut down news outfits he dislikes and insulting individual journalists, particularly those that doggedly document his brutal war on drugs and the growing number of corruption scandals hounding him and his administration.
More than his inability to tolerate dissent, Duterte’s relentless persecution of media appears to be part of the increasingly authoritarian direction his presidency has taken, as seen in the recent expansion of coverage of the state of national emergency he declared in September 2016 and his even more recent suggestion to create “death squads” to hunt down “prospective” – not even actual – rebels.
But people can stand only so much abuse and fear before they begin to realize that they can and should win back their rights and liberties – like freedom of the press and of expression and, yes, the very right to life.
Ferdinand Marcos learned that lesson bitterly.
We hope Mr. Duterte does not need to.