Filipino Nobel peace prize winner Maria Ressa loses appeal against conviction for cyber libel

‘The decision weakens the ability of journalists to hold power to account’

Shweta Sharma
Saturday 09 July 2022 13:02 BST
Rappler shutdown ordered by SEC, says Maria Ressa

Filipino Nobel peace prize winner Maria Ressa, convicted on a cyber libel charge in June 2022, has lost her appeal against the conviction, in a setback to her years-long legal battles.

The courts of appeals upheld an earlier decision by the Manila court, convicting Ms Ressa and her former colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr, the Nobel laureate’s website Rappler confirmed.

The court also added eight months and 20 days to their proscribed jail time of six years.

Rappler described the decision as “unfortunate” and said her counsel will “avail of all legal remedies available to them”.

“The decision weakens the ability of journalists to hold power to account,” Rappler said. “What is ultimately at stake is our democracy whose strength rests on a media that is not threatened by the state nor intimidated by forces out to silence critical voices,” Rappler said.

Ms Ressa, who exposed former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s “bloody war on drugs,” is out on bail and faces lengthy jail sentences after she and her colleague were sued by businessman Wilfredo Keng for a 2012 article. The lawsuit for damage to reputation was tried under the Philippines’ cyber libel law which was enacted in the same year the article was published.

The court ruled that a typographical correction made in 2014 meant that the article was covered under the law.

The ruling comes just weeks after authorities in Philippines ordered Rappler to shutdown ahead of Mr Duterte’s last day in office.

Last year, Ms Ressa became the first ever Filipino and the first working journalist in more than 80 years to win the Nobel peace prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.

Ms Ressa is a US citizen and she is fighting seven court cases in the country.

The news site, which gained popularity because of its investigations into Mr Duterte’s actions against drug traffickers, was co-founded by Ms Ressa in 2012.

After the shutdown orders, Ms Ressa said the company would continue to operate as it followed all the legal processes and hoped that situation might improve under Ferdinand Marcos Jr‘s government.

“I continue to appeal to the incoming administration: Work with journalists, we’re here to help you give a better future for the Philippines. We’re not your enemies,” she said a day before Mr Marcos Jr took office.

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