Fraudulent Philippine Nobel laureate Ressa fights for her freedom – Latest News – The Nation

MANILA – Less than a year after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to protect free speech, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa is fighting to get out of jail as her news site Rappler faces possible closure. But the enthusiastic veteran reporter – a vocal critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs – refused to remain silent. “This is a newsroom that has been under attack for six years and we have prepared ourselves,” Ressa, 58, told AFP this week at Rappler’s office in suburban Manila. “We will not voluntarily give up our rights.” Rappler, who co-founded Ressa a decade ago, had to fight to survive under Duterte because his government accused him of violating the constitutional ban on foreign ownership, as well as tax evasion. A few days before the end of Duterte’s term on June 30, the company received a shutdown order from the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In less than two weeks, Ressa lost an appeal against a 2020 conviction for cyber libel, which put her one step closer to serving up to nearly seven years behind bars. Based on decades of experience working as a journalist across Asia, including in conflict zones, Ressa said she needed to be “ready for anything”. “It’s something I do as a person, whatever it is I’m most afraid of, I think about the worst situation and then I plan it out,” said the former CNN correspondent, who was on bail. Ressa faces seven cases in court, including cyber libel conviction, while Rappler faces eight. Their lawyers describe the cases as “state -sponsored legal harassment”. The trouble for Ressa and Rappler began in 2016 when Duterte came to power and launched a drug war in which more than 6,200 people died in police anti-narcotics operations, according to official data. Rights groups estimate that tens of thousands have been killed. Rappler was among the domestic and foreign media outlets that published shocking images of the killings and questioned the legal basis of the crackdown. Local broadcaster ABS-CBN-also critical of Duterte-lost its free-to-air license, while Ressa and Rappler endured what freedom of the press advocates say is a series of criminal cases, investigations and online attacks. The Duterte government previously said it had nothing to do with any of the cases against Ressa. After the SEC shutdown order, Ressa said online harassment has increased “exponentially” and has continued since Duterte was replaced by the son and name of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. “This is the biggest spike for sure. It doesn’t stop, it’s pretty non-stop,” Ressa said.
“The attacks have always been connected to a defense in the Marcos administration.”
Ressa became a journalist in 1986, the same year that the elder Marcos was ousted in a popular uprising and his family was exiled to the United States.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. won the presidential polls on May 9 by a landslide, completing an impressive comeback for the clan, aided by relentless online whitewashing of their past and powerful alliances with rival elite families. .
Ressa said she hopes Marcos Jr. will rule differently from his father, who has led to human rights abuses, corruption and shutdowns of the independent media. But the pattern over the past three weeks, including attacks on social media, is “suspiciously bad for press freedom and for Filipino journalists”, he said. “It’s not courtesy to success,” Ressa said. “It’s not one or two people that’s bad – it’s integrated information operations.”
Some of his colleagues at Rappler, whose average age of staff, including reporters, is about 25, were also targeted. While Ressa and the company are fighting to reverse SEC decisions and cyber libel, their future is uncertain. He hopes that winning the Nobel Peace Prize in October, which he shared with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, will be able to defend him and other journalists in the Philippines.
While Marcos Jr. has given few hints about his views on Rappler and the broader issue of freedom of speech, activists fear he could improve the situation. Ressa said the outcome of the cases against him and Rappler could have broader implications for Filipinos and their rights.
He was referring to the controversial cyber libel law, which he was accused of violating. It was introduced in 2012 and applied to an article published by Rappler a few months before the law took effect.
“This is make or break,” Ressa said.
“The stakes are beyond my freedom or Rappler. This will really determine where this country will go.