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OPC Condemns Charges Against Maria Ressa; Philippine Journalist Vows to Keep Fighting
NEW YORK, December 4, 2018—The Overseas Press Club condemns the relentless attacks on press freedom by the government of the Philippines as its justice department filed tax evasion charges against Rappler Holdings Corp. and journalist founder, Maria Ressa, a longtime critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Ressa vowed this week to fight the “politically motivated” tax evasion charges and continue reporting on the Duterte administration. Ressa founded Rappler – an online news outlet — in 2012.
She said the ongoing government harassment is a “clear indication” that the Duterte administration is using the law “as a weapon against its perceived enemies” and to “weaken the country’s press freedoms.”
In February 2018, the Philippine government banned Rappler from covering all presidential events because Duterte, according to a spokesman, could “no longer trust” the independent online outlet due to its “fake news” reporting.
Journalists and members of the press freedom community worldwide formed a chorus of support for Ressa expressing concern over government attempts to silence the media and calling on Philippine officials to drop the politically motivated charges.
“This is an attack on one of the world’s bravest journalists,” said Marty Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post.
“We are not at all surprised about the decision, considering the track record of how the government has treated Rappler as a result of its independent and fearless reporting,” said Francis Lim, Rappler’s legal counsel.
Lim denied the tax evasion charges regarding 2015 Rappler bond sales to a pair of foreign entities. He added that Rappler is wholly Filipino-owned and that foreigners have neither voting rights nor influence in its operation.
Ressa was honored in November by The Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Center for Journalists, appealing to all those in attendance: “These times force us to define exactly who we are, what values we live by, and what lines we will not cross… nor allow others to cross.”
She concluded: “We are Rappler, and we will hold the line.”
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.