Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Journalist sees threat to democracy under Duterte rule

Published:Friday | February 15, 2019 | 12:09 AM


The head of a Philippine online news site who was arrested by government agents in a libel case accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration yesterday of acting like a dictatorship and using the law as a weapon to muzzle dissent

“What we’re seeing ... is a level of impunity that I, frankly, haven’t seen, and I’ve been a journalist for more than 30-some-odd years,” Maria Ressa told The Associated Press yesterday after posting bail in a Manila court.

Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, is the head of Rappler Inc, which has aggressively covered Duterte’s administration.

She was arrested on Wednesday over a libel complaint from a businessman. Duterte’s government has said that the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint and had nothing to do with press freedom.

Rappler said the businessman filed the complaint five years after the article appeared in 2012, and the law under which Ressa was charged by the government, the Cybercrime Prevention Act, did not go into effect until months after the article’s publication.

Ressa said the complaint had previously been dismissed by the National Bureau of Investigation and then “magically reappeared” under Duterte’s Department of Justice.