Philippines journalist charged for libel, freed on bail

Veteran Filipino journalist, Maria Ressa, who was arrested on 14 February on charges of ‘cyber-libel’ was freed on bail soon after international condemnation. Ressa who is the CEO of news site Rappler, was taken under custody at the news outlet’s Manila headquarters by officers in plain clothes from the National Bureau of Investigation. They also charged former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

The libel charge stems from a story published in May 2012, more than four months before the law Ressa and Santos are charged for was enacted. Rappler is one of few media organisations in the Philippines that openly criticises President Rodrigo Duterte, regularly interrogating the accuracy of his public statements and condemning his sometimes deadly policies.

Ressa was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her work holding authorities accountable in an increasingly hostile environment. She was already facing tax evasion investigations that are seen as an attempt to stifle critical reporting of President Rodrigo Duterte by many. Ressa spent much of her career as a regional bureau chief at US broadcaster CNN before co-founding Rappler in 2012.