Rappler described Monday said the conviction of the online news site’s CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher Rey Santos marked the “diminished freedom” in the country.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Rapper said the conviction “sets a dangerous precedent not only for journalists but for everyone online. It weakens the ability of journalists to hold power to account as the one-year prescription period of libel is extended to 12 years.”
“Today marks diminished freedom and more threats to democratic rights supposedly guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution, especially in the context of looming anti-terrorism law,” it added.
Rappler released the statement moments after the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 found Ressa and Santos guilty of cyber libel. The two were sentenced to six months and one day to up to six years in jail.
The court, meanwhile, cleared Rappler, the company of the cyber libel charges.
Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa released the ruling after less than a year of trial. The promulgation of judgment was initially scheduled for April.
Prosecutors from the government filed a cyber libel case against Ressa, Santos, and news outlet Rappler in January 2019 after they published an article that cited an “intelligence report” linking the private complainant and businessman Wilfredo Keng, to drug smuggling and human trafficking in 2012.
In December 2018, Ressa posted bail twice over alleged violation of the Tax Code – one at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 265 and the Court of Tax Appeals.
Rappler asks for support after conviction of Maria Ressa
“We call on our media colleagues, our community, and other advocates of a free and independent press to be vigilant and vocal now more than ever,” Rappler posted on its official Facebook account moments after Ressa and Santos were found guilty of cyber libel.
They asked the public to help Rappler continue its journalism by supporting its crowdfunding, which helps its legal battles and their investigative stories. Those who wish to donate could visit rappler.com/crowdfunding.
“Join Rappler+, a community that offers a safe space for conversations and collaboration. Visit rappler.com/plus to sign up,” it added.
It also urged the online community to use #DefendPressFreedom, #HoldTheLine, and #CourageON.