Ressa conviction blow to press freedom -- opposition solons

Maria Ressa
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks during a press conference after attending the court's verdict promulgation in Manila on June 15, 2020. Ressa was convicted on June 15 of cyber libel and sentenced to prison in a case that watchdogs say marks a dangerous erosion of press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.

OPPOSITION solons described as “press freedom hostage”  the guilty verdict against Rappler Executive Editor and CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlo ISagani Zarate said press freedom again received another devastating blow under the present administration.

According to Lagman, the conviction is a tragic commentary on the judiciary’s succumbing to the repressive campaign of the Executive branch.

“Press freedom received another devastating blow from the improvident and barren conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa for alleged commission of cyber libel even before it was criminalized, and the prosecution for which has long proscribed,” Lagman said.

Since cyber libel is libel defined under the. Revised Penal Code (RPC) committed through a computer system, the prescription of cyber libel is one year as provided for in Article 90 of the RPC.

Lagman added that the purported cyber libel for which Ressa is charged with was allegedly published or committed in May 2012 but the case was filed in 2017 or only five years later. Verily, it has prescribed.

For his part, Zarate said the verdict against Ressa and Santos is cause for serious and grave concerns, especially in the context of the growing attacks on the basic rights of the people.

“"This decision is another nail on the press freedom coffin and is very dangerous not just for journalists but for everybody who uses social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This verdict can be used to haul into court and jail anyone who exposes wrongdoing in government,"  the Deputy Minority leader added.