Amal Clooney to represent journalist Maria Ressa

Amal Clooney to represent journalist Maria Ressa
File photo shows Amal Clooney participating in the Press Behind Bars: Undermining Justice and Democracy event during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on September 28, 2018.
AFP / Angela Weiss, File

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will lead a legal team representing Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, who is facing a string of charges including tax evasion and cyberlibel.

According to London-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers, Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher—both specializing in human rights and international law—will lead the international legal team.

The team will work closely with counsels in the United States and the Philippines.

“Maria Ressa is a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses,” Clooney said.

She added: “We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines.”

The Palace has said that the cases against Ressa and news website Rappler have "nothing to do with freedom of expression or the press."

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in February that Ressa, who has posted bail eight times and has been arrested twice, is "the walking testament that freedom of the press, as well as of expression, are very alive in this country."

"Until now, she's still using that freedom to assault the government and this administration," he also said.

RELATED: Philippines slips further on World Press Freedom index

Ressa’s cases are among those being monitored by TrialWatch, an initiative started by Clooney and her husband George.

Clooney has previously represented Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who were jailed for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis. The journalists were freed from prison last May.

In 2015, Clooney filed a case against the Philippine government before the United Nations over the detention Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was then Pampanga representative. Arroyo, a former president, was freed in 2016 after the Supreme Court dismissed her plunder case.

Since 2018, Ressa has posted bail eight times and has been arrested twice. She was charged for alleged security fraud, tax evasion and cyberlibel, which many rights defenders attribute to her news site's reporting of human rights abuses and weaponization of social media in the Philippines under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. — Gaea Katreena Cabico



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