The Free Internet Project

Philippine court finds Rappler journalist Maria Ressa guilty of criminal "cyber libel" for 2012 article on Wilfredo Kang

A Philippine court sent shock waves around the world as it convicted Maria Ressa, a journalist and co-founder of the site Rappler, which she started in 2012.  The court found both Ressa and journalist Reynaldo Santos Jr., the author of the article, guilty of "cyber libel" in violation of the Philippines Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.   According to CNN, the article in question was published by Rappler before the Cybercrime law went into effect, but the court held that Rappler later, in 2014, made a correction (apparently a misspelled word) to the article after the effective date and thus fell within the coverage of the Cybercrime law.  The 2012 Rappler article had reportedly "cited an intelligence report linking him to a murder, drug dealing, human trafficking and smuggling," according to the Associated Press. The court ruled: "“Rappler and both accused did not offer a scintilla of proof that they verified the imputations of various crimes in the disputed article upon the person of Keng."

Ressa and Santos face between 6 months and 6 years in prison, plus must pay $8,000 in damages. Ressa's lawyer, Amal Clooney, said they would appeal the conviction. Ressa has reportedly drawn the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for the Rappler's critical coverage of his policies, especially the war on drugs. Ressa's defenders contend that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Maria Ressa is fairly well-known in the United States.  She was a former CNN bureau chief and also one of the recipients of Time Person of the Year 2018

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