This file photo taken on Jan. 15, 2018 shows employees of online portal Rappler working at the company's editorial office in Manila. President Rodrigo Duterte's move to ban news website Rappler from covering the presidential palace is a threat to press freedom, rights and media groups said on February 21, 2018.
Ted Aljibe/AFP, File
Global press group to Duterte: Stop weaponizing law to silence Rappler
(Philstar.com) - February 13, 2019 - 7:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum on Wednesday wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte expressing alarm on the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges, saying such a move was “politically motivated.”

Rappler news editor Miriam Go said that NBI agents entered their building at past 5 p.m. to serve an arrest warrant on Ressa. Government office hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. although warrants can be served at any time.

State prosecutors on January 10 indicted Rappler, Ressa and former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. on cyberlibel over an article about businessman Wilfredo Keng that was published in 2012.

READ: NBI at Rappler office to serve warrant against CEO Ressa

“We are seriously concerned that the charges are politically motivated and form part of a systematic campaign by the government to use the law as a weapon to silence Rappler’s reporting, which has often been critical of your presidency,” WAN-IFRA and World Editors Forum said in a letter to Duterte, noting the numerous legal proceedings that the news site is facing.

“We would also like to remind you that bringing charges for a crime that was not enacted at the time of the alleged infraction is not only a legal absurdity, it also risks rendering the Cybercrime Prevention Act unconstitutional, as it would become an 'ex post facto' law. It would also send a chilling message to all online publishers,” they added.

Agents of the NBI arrived at the Rappler office past government office hours, including court hours. This means that if the warrant has been served, Ressa would have to be detained overnight.

She could post bail when the court that issued a warrant opens on Thursday morning.

“We respectfully call on you to take all possible steps to ensure that the NBI follows the advice of its own lawyers and withdraws the indictment for cyber libel,” WAN-IFRA and World Editors Forum said.

“We also ask you to halt the apparent persecution of Rappler and Maria Ressa so that they may continue to play an active role in civic debate and carry out the watchdog function of the press,” they added.

Duterte earlier accused Rappler of “throwing trash and shit all along” and called it a “fake news outlet.”

The WAN-IFRA and World Editors Forum represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

“We continue reporting on major events. Of course, we know that these cases are intended to intimidate us precisely because we know that’s the intent,” Rappler Investigative Desk Editor Chay Hofileña told ANC Television.

“We’re not buckling down.” — Ian Nicolas Cigaral with Kristine Joy Patag

MARIA RESSA PRESS FREEDOM LAW RAPPLER RODRIGO DUTERTE
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