Int’l journalists hit Duterte admin for Maria Ressa’s arrest

Marje Pelayo   •   February 14, 2019   •   2701

FILE PHOTO: Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration is hit by international journalists and personalities for the recent arrest of online news website Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa due to cyber libel.

Several comments on social media slammed the administration for what they believe is “suppression” of Ressa’s freedom of expression.

CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amnpour called the arrest a “desperate move” by the government.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist, condemned the arrest and said she is “deeply troubled” by the report.

The director of the Global Press Freedom of Expression and United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, meanwhile, expressed support for Ressa.

Other press freedom advocates also expressed dismay over what they claim as unjust treatment to the Ressa of the Duterte government.

“We call on Filipino authorities to immediately release Ressa. Drop this spurious cyberlibel charge and cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler,” said the international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalist.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo accused the administration of “political harassment” in an attempt to curtail press freedom.

“Isa na namang yugto na nagpapakita sa atin kung gaano iniipit iyong mga naglalakas-loob na makapagsalita laban sa mga polisiya ng administrasyong ito. Napakalaking dagok sa press freedom. Napakalaking warning na ibinibigay to anyone na magkakaroon ng lakas ng loob na magpahayag ng kanilang saloobin, ay napaparusahan,” Robredo said.

For its part, the Palace maintained that Ressa’s case should not be linked to press freedom.

“Ms. Ressa being a media practitioner and a high ranking officer of a media outfit critical of the President’s programs and policies has nothing to do with the present circumstances she is currently in,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Panelo said the Executive branch respects the decision of the judiciary and it has no reason to meddle with the court’s ruling on Ressa’s case.

Panelo stressed that no one is above the law and any citizen should abide by the Constitution regardless of their status or position. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Amal Clooney attends press freedom conference

Robie de Guzman   •   July 11, 2019

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney speaking at Freedom of Media Conference, London, England, United Kingdom | Courtesy: Reuters

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney said on Wednesday (July 10) that nations including Australia, Britain and the U.S. set an example for other world leaders in their handling of media freedom cases.

Clooney was speaking in London at a conference for media freedom attended by delegations from more than 100 countries.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland joined Clooney on stage at the event which was hosted by Britain with the Canadian government.

During her speech, Clooney spoke of assaults on media freedom including Australian police raiding the offices of the national broadcaster in June over allegations it had published classified material.

Clooney also noted the ongoing case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the arrest of two Northern Ireland journalists in the U.K. The pair were arrested over the alleged theft of documents used in a documentary; however British police have since dropped their case.

The conference aimed to defend media freedom from restrictive practices by governments, encourage participants to develop plans to legislate for a free press, help improve journalists’ safety and counter disinformation. (REUTERS)

(Production: Soraya Ali)

Amal Clooney to represent Rappler’s Maria Ressa

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2019

(L-R) Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney

MANILA, Philippines – International human rights lawyers Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC will join Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s legal team.

In a statement, Clooney expressed confidence in Maria Ressa as a ‘courageous’ journalist “who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses.”

Ressa is currently facing several criminal cases including tax evasion and cyberlibel.

Together with her team, Clooney promised to protect the rights of journalists in the country with their handling of Ressa’s charges.

“We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ressa said she is ‘delighted’ by Clooney and her team’s willingness to help in her case.

“I have been targeted and attacked simply for being an independent journalist,” Ressa said in a statement.

“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 organization I represent,” the embattled journalist added.

Clooney and Gallagher, both specializing in international law and human rights, are members of the Doughty Street Chambers law firm. – with details from Mai Bermudez

U.N. welcomes Reuters journalists’ release, but warns on situation of freedom of expression

Marje Pelayo   •   May 7, 2019

The release of the two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act is “good news” but the situation of freedom of expression in the country is still dire, U.N. warns on Tuesday (May 7).

“In our report that we put out in September last year we had put forth a lot of very constructive recommendations to the government of Myanmar to improve the state of freedom of expression in the country. No positive progress has been observed in relation to the recommendations that we had made to them.” Said United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Spokeswomen Ravina Shamdasani.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 walked free from prison on Tuesday (May 7) after more than 500 days behind bars.

They had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners when President Win Myint pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.

Before their arrest in December 2017, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017.

The report that the two men authored, featuring testimonies from perpetrators, witnesses, and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in May. (REUTERS)


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