Militants describe Ressa conviction a ‘dark day’

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The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Monday has described the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. for cyber libel charges as a “dark day.”

NUJP, in a statement posted on Facebook, said the conviction of Ressa and Santos killed freedom of speech and of the press but journalists will not be cowed.

“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.

“But we will not be cowed. We will continue to stand our ground against all attempts to suppress our freedoms,” NUJP also said.

The conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. of cyber libel is an extreme misfortune for press freedom, an activist leader said on Monday.

In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes said the guilty verdict will also affect the confidence of Filipinos in expressing themselves online.

“The guilty verdict on Maria Ressa and Rey 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,” Reyes said.

“Amid this latest attack on rights and freedoms, we ask the people to defend press freedom and to resist all forms of repression. All those experiencing attacks should stand together and resist,” said Reyes.

On the other hand, the conviction of Ressa and Santos on cyber-libel charges has dire implications on the state of press freedom and the people’s right to information and freedom of expression in the Philippines, Karapatan said.

“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,” said Karapatan in their statement.

“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,” they said.

On the other hand, Gabriela Women’s Party said Ressa’s conviction is described as “dark day for the press, sign of darker days ahead under Anti-Terror Bill.”

“The court’s verdict convicting Maria Ressa and his researcher-writer of cyber libel sends a chilling effect to the press, and ominously presents a preview of more calibrated attacks on press freedom especially under the looming Anti-Terrorism Law. This is a terrible development that may set forth more rabid attacks against media outfits who have earned the ire of Malacanang. The message of the conviction is clear: Duterte and his friends can abuse their power to frame truth-tellers in a bad light, harass them with lawsuits, and hand them down jail time,” said Gabriela.

“We stand with journalists and all freedom-loving Filipinos on this dark day. More than ever, we need to collectively fortify our defense of press freedom and hard-earned fundamental rights against the more vicious maneuvers to snuff out whatever freedom remains and bring our country to pitch black,” Gabriela said.

For their part, AlterMidya also stand in solidarity with Ressa and Rappler as it encouraged other media outfits to do the same.

“We encourage our fellow media practitioners in both the alternative and dominant media to stand with Rappler as part of our duty of defending press freedom and opposing the Duterte regime’s suppression of our rights and civil liberties,” Luis Teodoro, AlterMidya national chairperson, said in a press statement.

Teodoro said the Philippine media, both in the alternative and dominant, has faced a systematic assault under the Duterte administration.

“This guilty verdict on Rappler’s case is another blow to press freedom and free expression in the country. But this will certainly not deter the media community in resisting repression,” Teodoro said.

Teodoro said Malacañang had previously denied it had a hand in the cyberlibel case, even as Ressa and Rappler face several other accusations of tax fraud, and violations of the Securities Regulation Code, the Anti-Dummy Law, etc.

He said Malacanang has also denied it had anything to do with the shutdown of broadcast network ABS-CBN, even if all indication points otherwise.

“Taken as a whole, this barrage of legal cases and accusations against Rappler, ABS-CBN, and other independent journalists is clearly a part of the administration’s continuing attack against the media — with a determined aim of instilling fear among media practitioners committed to reporting the truth and holding the administration into account,” said Teodoro./Stacy Ang

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