Statement by Journalists for Human Rights on the Maria Ressa verdict. No Journalist Should Face Jail Time for Doing Their Job


Toronto, June 16 2020

Journalists for Human Rights is appalled by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa’s guilty verdict in this baseless cyberlibel case against Maria Ressa, Reynaldo Santos Jr., and Rappler. JHR has had the privilege of working with Maria Ressa on a number of occasions. She is a journalist of peerless integrity and a powerful voice for truth, which is precisely why she is being targeted in this despicable way.

Rachel Pulfer and Maria Ressa at the JHR – UK Consulate event on Media Freedom, June 2019 

Journalists for Human Rights is appalled by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa’s guilty verdict in this baseless cyberlibel case against Maria Ressa, Reynaldo Santos Jr., and Rappler.

The verdict misapplies Philippine law, while contradicting international law and the amicus brief submitted to the court by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye.

The following illustrates that there is no legal basis for the case.

First, the charges apply retroactively to an article that was published three months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was passed.

Second, the charges were filed seven years after publication of the article. In the Philippines, there is a one-year limitation period for libel; this case is far outside that.

Third, the cyberlibel law violates international human rights law and Filipinos’ right to freedom of expression. The article was a fair and true report made in good faith.

Fourth, the charges are based on a law that violates international standards in treaties which the Philippines are signatories to, in that they expect Maria Ressa to be imprisoned for allegedly libelous speech.

This is a politically-motivated attack designed to undermine Rappler’s ability to function, and intimidate other journalists and media organisations who dare to report with integrity in the Philippines. It represents a corruption of the courts for political purposes, and sets a dangerous global precedent that is a blow for press freedom everywhere.

JHR has had the privilege of working with Maria Ressa on a number of occasions. Our successful program training both journalists and social media users on how to identify and combat misinformation was directly inspired by her work. She is a journalist of peerless integrity and a powerful voice for truth, which is precisely why she is being targeted in this despicable way.

For all of these reasons we call on the Court of Appeals to revoke the conviction. Further, Maria Ressa and Rappler also face several other spurious charges; we call for them to be dropped as well. No journalist should face jail time for doing their job; that we have reached this point is a tragic statement on the state of press freedom in the Philippines and sets a dangerous precedent for efforts to uphold larger media freedoms worldwide.

You can support Maria Ressa by joining Rappler here

https://www.rappler.com/plus

Or donate to protect journalists through the Press Freedom Defense Fund of the Committeee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) here

https://support.pressfreedomdefensefund.org/donate/pfdf

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Our thanks to CNW for sponsoring this announcement 

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For media inquiries please contact 

Janine de Vries

Director of Operations

Journalists for Human Rights 

416 904 6193

[email protected] 

www.jhr.ca 

 

About Journalists for Human Rights

Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) trains journalists worldwide to cover human rights issues ethically and objectively. For 16 years, Canada-based JHR has worked with 15,565 journalists around the world. Currently JHR operates sector-wide programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Syrian journalists in Turkey, South Sudan, the Middle East, and with Indigenous communities in Canada. For more information, please visit www.jhr.ca



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