CIJ stands in solidarity with Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr
June 15, 2020
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) stands in solidarity with Maria Ressa, the chief executive officer of Rappler, a Philippine news website known to be critical of the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, and Reynaldo Santos Jr., a former Rappler researcher-writer. Both were convicted today in court for cyber libel.
The Rappler is also known for relentlessly covering matters of public interests, including Duterte’s “war on drugs”, which the president is known for championing. Previously, the owners of the country’s largest newspaper, Philippine Daily Inquirer, were previouslyforced to sell the publication after publishing news reports and editorials critical of the mounting deaths in the “war on drugs”. In 2018, the ruling government had revoked the operating license of The Rappler on allegations that it was American-owned.
Commenting on the case, CIJ executive director Wathshlah G. Naidu said:
“This conviction is a serious threat to media freedom. Freedom of expression and speech is clearly enshrined under international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It underpins the fundamental right to seek and exchange ideas, opinions and information that would enable the public to form their own opinions and allow for dissenting or alternative positions, specifically on issues of public interests, and even if they are critical of policies or alleged mismanagement on the State’s part. The role of the State, on the other hand, is to promote democracy and allow dissenting voices to be heard and accessed, ultimately promoting good governance and holding the State to account.
“Any limits or restrictions on the freedom of expression in law must be clear and narrowly defined, and serve a well-defined public interest function. These limits must also be necessary and proportionate, while measures adopted to address alleged online infringement must meet the harm test to determine legitimacy, necessity and proportionality. No State should be allowed to misuse such laws or regressive measures to undermine media freedom or to discourage the public from participating in debates on issues related to public interests.”