Palace to CPJ: Rappler, Ressa cases not press freedom issues
MANILA, Philippines — Neither online media outfit Rappler nor its chief executive officer, Maria Ressa, reflects the condition of media in the Philippines, Malacañang said Tuesday as it slammed the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for expressing alarm on the state of press freedom in the country.
In a statement, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo described the CPJ’s claim as a “hasty generalization” with “no basis in fact nor in law.”
“Ms. Ressa or Rappler does not represent the entire media in the Philippines,” Panelo said.
There are local journalists, he said, “who are similarly critical, even outrageously hostile and biased of the policies of the administration but continue to enjoy the practice of their profession.”
Panelo, who is also the chief legal counsel of President Rodrigo Duterte, reiterated that Ressa was charged for a violation of law not related to the exercise of her right to free speech.
“We stress that she is facing criminal charges due to her commission of illegal acts, which include the offenses of tax evasion, breach of our anti-dummy statute and violation of our cyber libel laws, which the investigating prosecutor and the courts trying her found probable cause that she could have probably committed the same,” he said.
“She cannot escape liabilities for these just because of her profession or politics. Ours is a system of law and no one is above it nor exempt from it,” he added.
CPJ officials visited the Philippines in a mission to discover what it described as the “increasing levels of intimidation and a shrinking space for the free press in the country.”
In a press statement released on Tuesday, CPJ expressed concern over the alleged various types of pressure exerted by the Duterte administration on journalists in the country, citing the legal cases against Rappler and the threat to withhold the license of the TV network giant ABS-CBN.
In reaction, Panelo said that it was under Duterte that the Philippines was delisted as one of the deadliest countries for media, citing the 2018 annual report of Reporters Without Borders.
He also mentioned the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), which the President created in his first administrative order on assuming office.
“The President himself advocates for the free marketplace of ideas and will continue to do so while preserving our country’s vibrant democracy,” Panelo said.
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