Maria Ressa posts bail Thursday afternoon after being detained on cyberlibel charges
Noel Celis/Agence France-presse
Ressa arrest stirs condemnation, calls for due process from abroad
Ryan Macasero (Philstar.com) - February 14, 2019 - 5:23pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated Feb.15, 8:50 p.m.) — The US and Canada have expressed hope that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa will be given due process in a cyberlibel case against even as the Philippine government has said her arrest on Thursday is just a matter of enforcing the law.

In a statement on its social media account, the US Embassy said it hopes the charges "will be resolved quickly in accordance with relevant Philippine law and international standards of due process."

In a separate statement on her Twitter account, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said she is "deeply troubled" by the reports of Ressa's arrest. "Canada reiterates its call for due process to be respected and for journalists to be free from harassment and intimidation." 

In a tweet late Thursday, British Ambassador Daniel Pruce said he was also concerned about Ressa's arrest.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Thursday that he trusts “that the court will give [Ressa] a fair trial, based solely on the facts and the law, and not on arguents ad hominem and emotional rhetorics.”

Undersecretary Markk Perete, in a separate statement, said the issue is not about press freedom at all.

"Certainly, the freedoms of the press, of speech and of expression, do not give any person—whether a journalist, a blogger, or any person of whatever occupation—the license to engage in libel," he said.

Advocates for the decriminalization of libel say that the charge can be used to silence critics.

'Arrest outrageous, must be condemned'

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said shortly after news of Ressa's arrest broke that it was "outrageous and must be condemned by all democratic nations. I’m proud to call her a friend and to stand with her in defending the principles of a free press."

Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute, which awarded Maria Ressa and Rappler in 2017 for its work in “fighting disinformation.” 

READ: A look at the cyber libel charge vs Rappler, Maria Ressa

Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament and chairman of the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights is quoted in Singapore's The Straits Times as saying: "It shows the extent to which the Philippine government is willing to go in its bid to silence critics within the media."

UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard also tweeted support for Ressa on Thursday. 


Callamard herself has been the target of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte for her criticism of alleged extrajudicial killings related to the government's campaign against illegal drugs.

RELATED: Duterte warns Callamard: If you investigate me, I'll slap you

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of watchdog Reporters Without Borders tweeted that Ressa is a member of its Commission on Information and Democracy and could "rely on the solidarity of the 24 members of this commission, which includes Nobel laureates like Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, Shirin Ebadi, Mario Vargas Llosa.

UNESCO Chair in Journalism & Communication Peter Greste said that the case is "not about criminal behavior" but "silencing a voice that challenges the government." 

CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour tweeted, "You know a government is desperate when they arrest a journalist."

Ressa was the bureau chief of CNN’s Manila and Jakarta bureau in the 1990s until 2005.

She was among one of several journalists recognized as TIME Magazine's Person of the Year.

READRappler's Ressa among journalists named TIME Person of the Year

In a statement published on Wednesday evening, Rappler called the warrant a "dangerous precedent," saying it puts anyone "who publishes anything online perennially in danger of being charged with libel." 

"It can be an effective tool of harassment and intimidation to silence critical reporting on the part of the media. No one is safe," it added.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY PRESS FREEDOM RAPPLER
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