New York: The decision of a Philippine court to uphold the verdict of campaigning journalist Maria Ressa should be reconsidered by the newly elected government, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, said on Thursday.
Si Ms. Ressa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for her work defending freedom of expression as co-founder of independent news outlet Rappler, was convicted of “cyber libel” in 2020.
This follows the publication of an article on alleged corruption involving the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
The decision of the Court of Appeal last month also applied to another writer associated with the article, Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Her prison sentence was extended by several months, with Ms. Ressa, for over six years and eight months.
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Si Ms. Khan, who said he was deeply concerned about recent developments in the Philippines to silence independent and investigative journalism, called on the newly elected government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to withdraw the cases against Ms. Ressa, reverse decisions against Rappler and other online news platforms, and investigate all attacks and killings on journalists.
“I urge President Marcos to take this opportunity to end the crackdown on Press freedom in the Philippines,” he said.
Special Rapporteur Ms. also spoke. Khan against the “criminalization of journalists” involved in libel cases in the Philippines.
The use of libel “hinders reporting in the public interest and is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression”, the rights expert asserted, adding that criminal libel law “has no place in a democratic country and should to be repealed. “
The Special Rapporteur, appointed by the Human Rights Council, also expressed concern that the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act had been applied retroactively in the case of Ms. Ressa, “as the Rappler article in question was published before this law was enacted. This is another example of the relentless attack against Maria Ressa for daring to speak the truth in power, ”said Ms. Khan |
Si Ms. Ressa has faced numerous criminal and other cases related to his work in the Philippines.
War on drugs
Rappler’s scope includes a regular investigation into former President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs”-indicating serious concern by the UN human rights office, OHCHR, about the widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspect.
The online news website also explored the spread of disinformation on the internet and social media, while promoting freedom of expression, truth and democracy in the Asia-Pacific archipelago.
Forced to leave business
On June 28 this year, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission upheld its 2018 decision to revoke Rappler’s certificates of incorporation, effectively confirming its closure, Ms. Khan in a statement.
“On June 8, the Philippine National Telecommunications Commission ordered internet providers to restrict access to local news websites Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly for allegedly violating anti-terrorism laws,” Special continued. Rapporteur, who noted that no evidence was provided to justify the claim.