Philippines: a journalist critical of Duterte guilty of defamation

Philippines: une journaliste critique de Duterte reconnue coupable de diffamation

The journalist of the philippines Maria Ressa was recognized Monday guilty by a court of Manila in a case of defamation presented by its supporters as an attempt to muzzle critics of president Rodrigo Duterte.

Maria Ressa, age 56, is the co-founder of the information site online Rappler, which has been referred to by several judicial proceedings after it had published critical articles against the policy of the head of State, including his campaign of bloody and controversial against drug trafficking.

The ex-CNN journalist could face up to six years of detention. It is not known how long she will have to serve if the conviction becomes final. The journalist has been left free pending the examination of his appeal.

“We will resist all attacks against the freedom of the press”, has declared to journalists after his conviction, Ms. Ressa, who had been selected by Time as one of the leading personalities of the year 2018.

“It is a setback but this is not unexpected”, she added. “They are trying to scare us, but fear not. Because if you do not exercise your rights, you’ll lose them.”

The trial stemmed from an article written in 2012 on the alleged links between a businessman and the then-president of the supreme Court of the archipelago.

“You’ll be the next”

The complaint filed by the businessman had initially been rejected in 2017, but the file had then been sent to the public prosecutor, who had decided to pursue it and the former journalist Reynaldo Santos who had written the article.

This latter was also convicted on Monday and has remained free on bail.

The prosecution is the result of a controversial law on cybercrime, criminalizing online defamation, but also the harassment or child pornography. This act entered into force in September 2012, after the publication of the incriminating article.

But the prosecution had argued that the correction of a typo typographical 2014 — Rappler had replaced the word “evation” by “evasion” — was that the article fell under the blow of the law.

“I was warned: +shut up or you’ll be the next…+ this is part of why I was the target”, explained last week at the AFP Ms. Ressa, who is also a former journalist of the american news channel CNN.

The government of Mr. Duterte has rejected the accusations that the case was political, saying that the authorities had effectively ensured the implementation of the law, including against journalists.

Harassment

But the organisations for the defence of the rights of Man and the associations that are fighting for the freedom of the press argue that this is a case of defamation, the tax proceedings against Rappler and the efforts of the government to withdraw its accreditation for the site to constitute harassment.

Amnesty International has said that the “attacks” against Rappler were part of a campaign against the freedom of the press in the Philippines.

The verdict comes one month after discontinuation of the dissemination of the channels of ABS-CBN, the main media group of the philippines, after the government has against all odds made a decree ordering their closure because of the difficulties of the discussions on the renewal of its licence.

It had been years since Mr. Duterte threatened to close, ABS-CBN, a group that, like Rappler, has widely covered the “war on drugs” of the president, who has encouraged police to kill drug dealers and drug addicts suspected.

According to the Agency of the philippines for the fight against drugs, police have killed at least 5,600 people suspected of drug trafficking in the course of operations official. According to the organizations, the real review is at least three times higher.

Another figure very critical against this war against drug trafficking is the senator Leila de Lima, in detention for three years for drug trafficking.

The independence of the judicial system, long plagued with allegations of corruption, has been particularly challenged since the arrival in power of Mr. Dutertre in 2016, according to rights organizations.

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