Duterte critic Maria Ressa freed on bail
MANILA The head of a Philippine news website that has locked horns with President Rodrigo Duterte was freed on bail yesterday, a day after her widely condemned arrest on libel charges that critics say is a government effort to bully journalists.
Maria Ressa, the award-winning head of news platform Rappler, was served a warrant live on TV on Wednesday for what media watchdogs said were trumped-up charges aimed at intimidating those who challenge Mr Duterte's rule.
"For me, it is about two things - abuse of power and weaponisation of the law. You have to express outrage and do it now. Press freedom is not just about journalists, is not just about us, it is not just about me, it is not just about Rappler. Press freedom is the foundation of every single right of every Filipino to the truth," she told reporters after posting bail.
Ressa is accused of cyber libel over a 2012 Rappler article, which was updated in 2014, that linked a Filipino businessman to murder, human trafficking and drug smuggling. Rappler cited information in a 2002 intelligence report.
The businessman's lawyer said the information was wrong and the article defamatory.
Mr Duterte has made no secret of his annoyance at Rappler and has sparred frequently with its reporters, who are known for scrutinising his policies and his appointments and for questioning the accuracy of his statements.
Rappler has accused his administration of creating a social media "ecosystem" designed to defend Mr Duterte, threaten and discredit his opponents. Rappler denies any wrongdoing and says it will not be cowed into self-censorship.
Mr Duterte's spokesman said the libel case had nothing to do with the government and that Mr Duterte had no interest in punishing journalists.
Ressa's brief detention was criticised at home and abroad. Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said it was an "outrageous" arrest that "must be condemned by all democratic nations".- REUTERS