Cyberlibel case vs Rappler chief due for decision
MANILA, Philippines — Journalist Maria Ressa is the defendant in a cyberlibel case set to be decided on Monday, but the decision is expected to send shock waves across the media industry.
The decision will be read at Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46, where Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa has presided over the case of Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler.com, and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.
A 2012 story by Santos on businessman Wilfredo Keng cited an intelligence report claiming that Keng was under surveillance for alleged human and drug trafficking.
Keng sued Rappler in 2017 but Ressa argued that that she was charged retroactively for the story. Prosecutors contended that the story was covered by the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 because it was updated in 2014.
The update in question, however, was simply to correct the spelling of “evasion,” which was misspelled as “evation” in the original post.
“If it’s just a typographical error, there’s no substantial update there,” journalism professor Danilo Arao said. “It’s like saying Rappler should not have corrected the typographical error three years later so they could be off the hook. It sets a very dangerous precedent.”The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said of the cybercrime law, a key legislation of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration: “We have seen how the state and its agencies twisted the application of an already bad law into one more weapon in the legal arsenal it has brought to bear against Rappler.”
Both Nonoy Espina, the group’s chair, and Arao said the cyberlibel charge should be viewed against the backdrop of ABS-CBN’s shutdown and other attacks on the press.
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who also serves as lawyer for Ressa, penned an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Friday that said “the world will be watching on Monday, and no one should be watching more closely than the US government. Because as well as being Filipino, Maria is American.”
—With a report from Jhesset O. Enano
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