Maria Ressa, the chief of the online news website Rappler, has been arrested at her workplace for cyber libel charges.
National Bureau of Investigation agents served the arrest warrant at her office today (Wednesday, February 13).
The development came after the Department of Justice indicted Ressa, and Rappler, for cyber libel over an article published in 2012 which it described as “clearly defamatory”.
Her arrest was live streamed on social media by several of her colleagues.
The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 issued the arrest warrant against Ressa yesterday. She will now have to wait until tomorrow before she can post bail because the courts are already closed.
“I will do the right thing. I will keep going,” Ressa said following her arrest.
In tweets, Rappler said “an officer part of the serving party” also prohibited “Rappler employees from taking photos and videos inside the office”.
Justice Chief Menardo Guevarra said Ressa can post bail for the case. “At any rate, the simple solution is to post bail, whichever case it may be against Ms. Ressa,” he told ABS-CBN News.
He added that Ressa could have posted bail “even before the warrant is served”.
The complaint against Ressa and Rappler was filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, over an article published by Rappler titled “CJ using SUVs of controversial businessman” during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Keng had said he did not lend any vehicle to the late chief magistrate, who was ousted in 2012 over undeclared wealth.
In a resolution dated February 4, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog said Rappler, Ressa and reporter Reynaldo Santos committed libel under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. However, this law was passed after the alleged libel took place.
“The publication complained of imputes to complainant Keng the commission of crimes. It is clearly defamatory,” the resolution read.
Aside from cyber libel, Rappler and Ressa are also facing tax evasion charges.
A year ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s incorporation papers, citing an alleged violation of the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.
Despite these pending cases against her, Maria Ressa was named as among Time Magazine’s people of the year for 2018.
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Arrest warrant being served right now vs Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. An officer part of the serving party prohibits Rappler employees from taking photos and videos inside the office.
Posted by Rappler on Wednesday, February 13, 2019