OPC Condemns Conviction of Journalist Maria Ressa

Maria Ressa, editor and CEO of Rappler, prepares to speak to reporters after being convicted for cyber libel at a regional trial court on June 15 in Manila. Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

NEW YORK, June 15, 2020 -The Overseas Press Club of America denounces a Philippine court’s wrongful conviction of journalist Maria Ressa and her former colleague at the news website Rappler, a verdict that underscores dire threats to press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The court’s conviction of two journalists on bogus charges sends a threat to all journalists working in the Philippines,” said Pancho Bernasconi, president of the OPC. “This verdict is an example of how authoritarian governments silence critical voices and quash press freedom.”

The editor and founder of Rappler, a site that has been critical of the Duterte regime, faced politically motivated charges of cyber libel as well as several other allegations, including tax evasion and the site being funded by foreign agencies trying to destabilize the Philippine government. She and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos face up to six years in prison, and were each fined $8,000.

Ressa is a veteran journalist, former CNN bureau chief and head of national broadcaster ABS-CBN. She launched Rappler in 2012. Ressa has vowed to appeal the verdict, and to continue her fight for press freedom.

“When great power tries to hang a Damocles sword over your head, if you allow it to affect you, they succeed,” Ressa told CNN in an interview following the verdict. “Because then you’re not doing the kind of investigative journalism we should be doing. What we have learned in Rappler is we swat it away, and we keep our eye on the ball.”

The Overseas Press Club is an international association of journalists based in New York City that works to encourage the highest standards in journalism, to educate the next generation of foreign correspondents and to promote international press freedom and the well-being of colleagues in the field.