Foreign officials persecuting journalists barred from US
Supporters and employees of ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast network, hold placards as they join a protest in front of the ABS-CBN building in Manila on Feb. 21, 2020.
AFP/Basilio Sepe

Foreign officials persecuting journalists barred from US

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - December 29, 2020 - 4:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — The United States has passed a law barring entry to any foreign official involved in persecuting independent journalists.

A provision in the recently-enacted 2021 US spending bill bans the entry of foreign officials and their immediate family members if the US State Secretary has credible information that they were involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights.

The explanatory statement of the fiscal plan mandates the US State Secretary to apply this provision to foreign government officials involved in “threatening, wrongfully imprisoning, or otherwise depriving of liberty independent journalists who speak out or publish about official corruption or other abuses.”

Among the journalists identified by the US law are Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and Salvadoran digital news organization El Faro.

Ressa is facing a battery of court cases, including a cyberlibel case which she has been convicted of along with former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. 

The cases against her and Rappler began piling up after the news outlet drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for its critical coverage of his war on drugs and alleged corruption in his administration.

El Faro has been similarly attacked by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele after it reported on his alleged corruption and his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bukele has accused an El Faro editor of sexual harassment and announced an investigation for money laundering linked to one of the news organization’s donors.

It is not the first time that the US enacted a bill that could potentially ban Philippine officials from entry as Washington’s budget for this year also included a provision that bars officials involved in the “wrongful imprisonment” of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.

In retaliation, the Philippines imposed an entry ban on US senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin who pushed for the inclusion of the provision in the budget bill.

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