Philippines' Nobel laureate Ressa loses appeal of cyber libel conviction

The ruling comes less than two weeks after Philippine authorities ordered Rappler to shut down ahead of former president Rodrigo Duterte's last day in office.

Published: 08th July 2022 02:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 08th July 2022 02:00 PM   |  A+A-

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines

Nobel Peace Prize winner Philippino journalist Maria Ressa. (Photo | AP)


MANILA: Philippines' Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa lost her appeal against a conviction for cyber libel, her news website Rappler said Friday, in the latest blow for the veteran journalist.

Ressa and her former colleague Rey Santos Jr face lengthy jail sentences, but the company said they will "avail of all legal remedies available to them", including taking the case to the Supreme Court.

The ruling comes less than two weeks after Philippine authorities ordered Rappler to shut down ahead of former president Rodrigo Duterte's last day in office.

Rappler on Friday described the decision to uphold the conviction as "unfortunate", saying it "weakens the ability of journalists to hold power to account".

"What is ultimately at stake is our democracy whose strength rests on a media that is not threatened by the state nor intimidated by forces out to silence critical voices," Rappler said.

Ressa has long been a vocal critic of Duterte and the deadly drug war he launched in 2016, triggering what media advocates say is a grinding series of criminal charges, probes and online attacks against her and Rappler.

She and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October for their efforts to "safeguard freedom of expression".

Ressa, who is also a US citizen, is fighting at least seven court cases, including the cyber libel case, for which she has been on bail and faces up to six years in prison.

Rappler, which faces eight cases, had to fight for survival as Duterte's government accused it of violating a constitutional ban on foreign ownership in securing funding, as well as tax evasion.

ALSO READ | Philippines orders shutdown of news website co-founded by Nobel Laureate

Rappler's future?

Just days before Duterte left office, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission ordered Rappler to shut down for violating "constitutional and statutory restrictions on foreign ownership in mass media".

Ressa vowed the company would continue to operate as they followed the legal process, but expressed hope that the situation would improve under Duterte's successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

But the company's future and its battle in the country's highly politicised legal system under Marcos Jr's presidency is uncertain.

Marcos Jr, who took over from Duterte on June 30, has given few clues about his views on the website and the broader issue of freedom of speech.

But activists fear he could worsen the situation for human rights and freedom of speech in the country.


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