[Philippines] Rappler’s Maria Ressa arrested for cyber libel

Maria Ressa’s arrest ‘belies all pretense of upholding press freedom’ —SEAPA


Journalist Maria Ressa was arrested Wednesday, 13 February 2019, for online libel by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at Rappler’s office, in Pasig City. 

We will “cooperate with the authorities and try to post bail tonight,” Ressa said during the brief press conference held at Rappler’s office immediately after the arrest warrant was served. 

Presiding Judge Rainelda H. Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 issued the warrant of arrest on 12 February 2019. Ressa was “charged with the crime of violation of Section 4(C)(4) of Republic Act 10175” or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. 

Around 5 p.m., the NBI officers – who were clad in civilian clothes – went to Rappler’s office to serve the arrest warrant. An unidentified officer approached and prohibited Rappler reporter Aika Rey from taking videos. He threatened that he will go after her if she didn’t stop recording. 

The Department of Justice issued a 10 January 2019 decision to pursue the cyber libel cases against Rappler Inc., its chief executive officer and executive editor Ressa, and former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. 

The complaint was about a story that Rappler published in May 2012 about businessman Wilfredo D. Keng and his connection with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. 

Ressa has previously posted bail over charges of alleged violation of the Tax Code. The online media outlet and its journalists have been subjected to online threats, coverage bans, and legal harassment because of their reporting of the Duterte administration and its policies.

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