Maria Ressa, press freedom advocate, human rights defender, andexecutive editor of the online news outlet Rappler, was formally charged on May 14, 2019 with one count of cyber libel. Arrested on February 13, 2019 she was released on bail after spending a night in jail. A month later, on March 29, 2019, she was again arrested for allegedly violating the Philippines’ Anti-Dummy Law, which limits mass media ownership to Filipinos and Filipino-owned corporations. Ressa is also facing four
counts of alleged tax-related violations as well. Rappler has been a consistent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, and Ressa’s arrest and prosecution appear to be part of a broader campaign to silence critics of the government.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in 2016, media outlet Rappler has consistently drawn attention to the deadly reality of the ‘war on drugs,’ and the thousands of unlawful killings of poor and marginalized people perpetrated in its name. Its persistence in documenting these abuses has attracted the wrath of the Philippine authorities. On July 24, 2017, in his annual State of the Nation Address, Duterte claimed Rappler was owned by foreigners, implying that the media outlet was violating the Constitution, and in succeeding weeks, he repeated that claim. In January 2018, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) temporarily revoked Rappler’s registration, finding that it had violated foreign ownership rules. In February 2018, a Duterte spokesman said that Duterte himself had ordered presidential security staff to bar Rappler editor Maria Ressa from entering the presidential palace.