MANILA | The journalist of the philippines Maria Ressa was recognized Monday guilty by a court of Manila and could face up to six years in prison 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 target of several court proceedings after having published articles critical of the policy of the head of the State, including in his campaign of bloody and controversial against drug trafficking.
The ex-CNN journalist could face up to six years of detention. But it is not known how long she will have to serve if the conviction becomes final. It has been left open 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 do not be afraid.”
“I started my career in 1986 and worked in so many countries. I was pulled over and threatened, but I had never experienced this kind of slow death.”, she added
The trial stemmed from an article written in 2012 on the alleged links between a businessman and the former president of the supreme Court.
The complaint filed by the businessman had been rejected in 2017, but the file had then been sent to the public prosecutor who decided to pursue, as well as the author of the article, the former journalist Reynaldo Santos.
It has also been found guilty and remained free on bail.
The prosecution is the result of a controversial law on cybercrime, criminalizing defamation online, 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 in 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…” that is in part why I was the target”, explained last week to the AFP journalist, a graduate of Princeton, who also owns the american nationality. It was revealed that as head of Rappler, it happened at the end of 2016 to receive up to 90 messages of insults per hour.
The government has rejected the accusations that the case was political, claiming to ensure the application of the act, including for journalists.
But the organisations for the defence of Human rights say that in this case, the tax proceedings against Rappler and the efforts of the government to withdraw its accreditation for the site to constitute harassment.
“Ressa team and Rappler are targeted for their critical coverage of the administration Duterte,” said Amnesty International.
“With this latest attack against independent media, the balance sheet of the Philippines in the field of Human rights continues its free fall.
Human Rights Watch has estimated that the deal would have “not just an echo in the Philippines, but also in many countries, which regarded the country as favourable to the freedom of the press”.
The archipelago has recently slumped to the 136th place (out of 180) in the ranking of press freedom drawn up by Reporters without borders.
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 had passed a decree ordering their closure.
Mr. Duterte threatening for years to close, ABS-CBN, which, 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, but the organizations believe that the real balance 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.