‘We will not be cowed,’ NUJP says on cyber libel conviction of Maria Ressa, Santos
MANILA, Philippines — “We will not be cowed.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) stressed this on Monday, shortly after the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 found Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyber libel.
“This is a dark day not only for independent Philippine media but for all Filipinos. The verdict basically kills freedom of speech and of the press,” NUJP said in an initial statement posted on Facebook.
“But we will not be cowed. We will continue to stand our ground against all attempts to suppress our freedoms,” it added.
Ressa and Santos were sentenced to jail for six months and one day up to six years and were allowed to post bail over the cyber libel complaint filed in 2017 by Filipino-Chinese businessman Wilfredo Keng. They were also ordered to indemnify Keng P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages.
Meanwhile, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said the guilty verdict on Ressa and Santos “signals dark days ahead for press freedom.”
“It sends a chilling effect not just on journalists but on every Filipino who wishes to express themselves online,” he said in a separate statement as he called for Filipinos to defend press freedom and resist all forms of repression.
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, added that the court ruling has “dire implications” not just on press freedom, but also on people’s right to information and the freedom of expression in the country.
“It sends the dangerous message that journalists who expose misdeeds of those in power are more vulnerable to retaliation to silence them. It also sends an even more dangerous message to the public that anyone and everyone can be criminalized on their views and opinions,” she said.
“With the conviction of Ressa and Santos, the shutdown of ABS-CBN, the killings and threats against journalists, the numerous violations faced by Filipinos on a daily basis and the passage of the terror bill, a full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable,” Palabay added.
The case stemmed from a Rappler article titled “CJ Using SUVs of Controversial Businessman” written by Santos in 2012, which claimed that former Chief Justice Renato Corona was using a Chevrolet Suburban sports utility vehicle found to be registered to Keng.
The article also cited an intelligence report prepared in 2002 which allegedly stated that Keng had been under surveillance by the National Security Council for alleged involvement in “human trafficking and drug smuggling.”
In a separate statement, Rappler described the day of the conviction of Ressa and Santos as “a day of grief, mourning, and rage.”
“The decision today marks not the rule of law, but the rule of law twisted to suit the interests of those in power who connive to satisfy their mutually beneficial personal and political agenda. Today marks diminished freedom and more threats to democratic rights supposedly guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution, especially in the context of a looming anti-terrorism law,” said the media company.
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