FAPCNY Statement on the Arrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa: We Stand with Maria Ressa; We Stand for Press Freedom
February 15, 2019
New York – The Filipino American Press Club of New York strongly condemns the arrest of Filipino journalist Maria Ressa by members of the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation on February 13, 2019.
Ressa, founder and CEO of the online publication Rappler, was charged with a cyber libel case for a story published in May 2012. Ressa was released upon posting bail and after spending a night in jail.
We view her arrest as nothing more than an attempt by the current Duterte administration to intimidate independent media that are critical of this government’s brutality, abuses and misinformation. We can cite at least two reasons why we believe that this arrest was merely an attempt by the Duterte government to silence Ressa and many other journalists who continue to speak truth to power.
First, the cybercrime law that was the basis of the libel charge against Ressa was enacted months after the supposed violation. The story in question was posted in May 2012. The law took effect four months later — in September of the same year. One does not have to be a lawyer to know that a person cannot be charged with a crime that was not yet in existence.
Second, Ressa and Rappler have been critical of the Duterte administration, especially its supposed War on Drugs. An estimated 27,000 Filipinos, mostly poor people, have fallen victim to these extrajudicial killings, according to the chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. By arresting Ressa, the Duterte government has demonstrated that it cannot and will not tolerate legitimate dissent and an independent press.
We believe that a free press is vital to the full functioning of democratic systems – it serves to keep the people informed by providing them with timely and accurate information and by exposing lies and misinformation. This is the way that the press can help the people make informed decisions and be better citizens and participants in society.
A critical press also serves as a counter-balance against those who wield economic and political power, and as a watchdog against abuse of power.
The Filipino American Press Club of New York stands with Maria Ressa and all our media colleagues in the Philippines in holding this President and his administration accountable to the people. We join fellow journalists all over the world in condemning this brazen effort by the Duterte government to shut down press freedom in the Philippines.
We call on freedom-loving Filipinos to stand side by side with beleaguered journalists in the Philippines who continue to hold the line in defending freedom of the press and expression. #