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Philippine journalist critical of Duterte convicted of 'cyber libel'

This article is more than 12 months old

MANILA: Veteran Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, whose website has put President Rodrigo Duterte under tough scrutiny, was convicted of libel yesterday and faces up to six years in jail.

Ressa, chief executive of Rappler and a former CNN journalist, was charged with "cyber libel" over a 2012 article that linked a businessman to illegal activities.

After the verdict, Ressa vowed not be silenced and accused the judiciary of becoming complicit in a campaign to stifle press freedom.

"We're at the precipice, if we fall over we're no longer a democracy," she told reporters.

In handing down the verdict against Ressa, 56, a dual US-Filipino citizen, Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa said the exercise of a freedom "should and must be used with due regard to the freedom of others".

Ressa faced up to six years in jail, the judge said.

Mr Reynaldo Santos, a former Rappler researcher and writer, was also found guilty. Both were granted bail pending an appeal.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Mr Duterte supported freedom of speech and it was a previous administration that pushed for the cyber libel law.

Mr Duterte had never filed a libel case against a journalist, he added.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, part of a legal team representing Ressa, called the conviction "an affront to the rule of law, a stark warning to the press, and a blow to democracy in the Philippines".

"I hope that the appeals court will set the record straight in this case. And that the United States will take action to protect their citizen and the values of their Constitution," she said in a statement.

The cyber libel case is one of numerous lawsuits the government has filed against Ressa and Rappler that have spurred global concern about the intimidation of reporters. - REUTERS

WORLD