Amal Clooney to join legal team defending Rappler’s Maria Ressa

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Amal Clooney
Amal Clooney and Maria Ressa.

Amal Clooney will join the legal team defending journalist Maria Ressa, whose news site Rappler has repeatedly clashed with President Duterte.

Ressa, who was named as one of Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year‘ in 2018, faces several criminal charges, in what some press freedom advocates describe as “persecution”.

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In a statement issued yesterday (Monday, July 8), Clooney said: “Maria Ressa is a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses.

“We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines,” the British-Lebanese lawyer and husband of Hollywood actor George Clooney said.

Clooney will work with a team of international lawyers based in the US and Britain as counsel to Ressa and coordinate with attorneys in Manila, the statement said.

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Ressa was arrested twice this year and has accused President Duterte of using prosecutions against her — including tax evasion and libel — to silence critics and intimidate the press.

The president has branded Rappler a “fake news outlet”. His government insists it is simply enforcing the law as cases pile up against the website. 

“I am delighted that Amal Clooney and her team will be representing me at the international level to challenge the violations of my rights and those of the media organisation I represent,” Ressa said in a statement today.

She also said that she faced at least 11 cases which required her to post bail eight times and pay a bond to leave the country.

“Rappler should not have to face tactics of harassment, intimidation. We are trying to find the best way forward to make sure our rights are protected,” she said. 

Responding to the announcement, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Clooney could not practise law in the Philippines but added he was “excited” to debate with the lawyer he described as “beautiful and sexy”.

“Attorney Amal is misinformed. Maybe when we see each other, I can — to use the word of the president — educate her.”

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