Leni Robredo, groups hit Maria Ressaâs arrest
Speaking to reporters after the proclamation rally of the opposition slate in Naga City on Wednesday, Robredo said Ressa has shown courage to speak up and that they are saddened that “this still happens even after martial law and the dictatorship” where suppression of the freedom of the press was practiced.
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Leni Robredo, groups hit Maria Ressa’s arrest
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Various local and international groups as well as personalities led by Vice President Leni Robredo denounced yesterday the indictment and arrest of Rappler founder and chief executive officer Maria Ressa on Wednesday, saying the law is being manipulated and used to persecute and silence a critic from the media.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Karapatan, Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Mindanao Independent Press Council, Amnesty International Philippines and Alliance of Independent Journalists all called on the Duterte government to uphold freedom of the press and expression in a democracy.

Some of them called for the dropping of charges against Ressa and an end to the harrassment of Rappler by filing cases against the news outfit.

Senators Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes IV, senatorial candidates running under the opposition coalition Chel Diokno and Samira Gutoc, members of academe, including University of the Philippines-Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle Philippines noted the chilling effect of the moves against Rappler on the country’s media and democracy.

Speaking to reporters after the proclamation rally of the opposition slate in Naga City on Wednesday, Robredo said Ressa has shown courage to speak up and that they are saddened that “this still happens even after martial law and the dictatorship” where suppression of the freedom of the press was practiced.

For its part, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urged the government to ensure that the right to due process and equal protection of laws is applied to Ressa.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said “at this point, our interest is truth. We must always be vigilant against injustices donned with a cloak of legality – for laws are meant to guard our rights, not be used as tools to violate them.”

United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard expressed support for Ressa, describing her arrest as a “terrible nail in the coffin.”

“You can count on me. You can count on us,” she wrote on Twitter.

Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general, said Ressa’s arrest is an obvious violation of press freedom that should be denounced by all the heads of states and governments. RSF said the United Nations secretary general must also intervene in the case.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and Jim Acosta also expressed solidarity with Ressa.

“You know a government is desperate when they arrest a journalist. President Duterte: Free Maria Ressa now,” Amanpour posted on Twitter.

“Wake up folks. We are seeing a crackdown on reporters around the world. #FreeMaria,” Acosta wrote.

NUJP and the CPJ urged the public to stand with the independent Philippine press in defense of the rights not only of media but of the people.

“For in suppressing the press it is the people’s right to know that is trampled on,” NUJP said.

SEAPA said the charges filed against Ressa should settle any remaining doubt that the Duterte administration will stop at nothing to keep a free and inquisitive media out of its way.

Academe

A silent protest was held during the annual weekly fair at UP Diliman, Quezon City on Wednesday night, where Ressa was scheduled to speak.

Ateneo president Jose Ramon Villarin denounced the attacks against Rappler, saying the pattern of political persecution casts a chilling effect on legitimate opposition and criticism, while La Salle president Armin Luistro urged Lasallians to stand with Ressa and defend press freedom.

The UP College of Mass Communication said the early evening arrest shows a clear intent to harass and intimidate, “in true martial law era fashion.”

Trillanes said the move “unmasks” President Duterte’s despotic regime and his fear of accountability.

“We must unite and stand for press freedom in these trying times, as Duterte systematically destroys our democracy,” Trillanes said.

Diokno said the administration of Duterte has been going after individuals and groups critical of its policies and projects through its army of trolls destroying institutions.  – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Pia Lee-Brago, Paolo Romero, Rhodina Villanueva, Jose Katigbak, Artemio Dumlao, Edu Punay

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS LENI ROBREDO MARIA RESSA NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS IN THE PHILIPPINES
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