Philippines announces libel charge against critical journalist | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 07, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, February 07, 2019

Philippines announces libel charge against critical journalist

Philippine prosecutors said yesterday they will file a libel charge carrying up to 12 years in prison against journalist Maria Ressa, who leads a news website that has clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

The case -- under a controversial cybercrime law penalising online libel -- adds to legal pressure on Ressa and her site Rappler, which has already been hit with tax evasion charges that could shutter the outlet and put her behind bars.

Ressa, who was named a Time Magazine "Person of the Year" in 2018 for her journalistic work, slammed the fresh case as a new front of "harassment" intended to silence her website.

Rappler has drawn the administration's ire since publishing reports critical of Duterte's signature anti-drug crackdown that has killed thousands of alleged users and pushers since 2016.

However, the new case against Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos, Jr. stems from a 2012 report written about a businessman's alleged ties to a then-judge on the nation's top court.

While investigators initially dismissed the businessman's 2017 complaint about the article, the case was subsequently forwarded to prosecutors for their consideration.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told AFP yesterday the case would be filed in court "very soon".

Duterte has lashed out at other critical media outfits, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and broadcaster ABS-CBN.

He had threatened to go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes or block the network's franchise renewal application.

Some of the drug crackdown's highest profile critics have wound up behind bars, including Senator Leila de Lima, who was jailed on drug charges she insists were fabricated to silence her.

Ressa, already on bail for the tax charges, said the new case lacks a sound legal basis.

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