Filipino journalist Maria Ressa charged with second cyber libel case


Filipino veteran journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has been charged for a second time with cyber libel following a lawsuit filed by a businessman in February for sharing a screenshot of an online news article.

Ressa asked a court on Friday (Dec. 4) to quash the second charge of cyber libel filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng in February for sharing a screenshot of an article that was allegedly defamatory towards him.

Ressa, a former CNN journalist and critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, described the latest cyber libel charge as “crazy” and “dangerous”.

She has already been found guilty of cyber libel, along with ex-Rappler journalist Reynaldo Santos,in June from a complaint made by Keng in 2017 over a Rappler story five years earlier about his alleged ties to a judge on the nation’s top court.

She is currently out on bail pending an appeal against the conviction for which she could face up to six years in prison.

Ressa and her news site Rappler face at least a dozen criminal charges and probes after publishing stories critical of the Duterte government, including its bloody war on drugs that has killed thousands.

Thelatest charge – which prosecutors filed on Nov. 23 – stems from a complaint by Keng over Ressa’s tweet in 2019 of a screenshot of a 2002 story published by new site about the businessman.

The news site removed the article “after the camp of Mr. Wilfredo Keng raised the possibility of legal action”, said last year.

“It’s crazy that I have to face a criminal case for tweeting a screen grab of a newspaper article,” Ressa told journalists after appearing in court Friday.

“By any stretch of the imagination that just seems off. That’s why we have a motion to quash,” Ressa said.

Ressa, named as Person of the Year by Time magazine in 2018, has asked the court to dismiss the charge on the grounds she cannot be liable for sharing a screenshot of a news story she did not write.

“This is a bad precedent for social media, for Twitter,” she said.

“This is very dangerous.”

The cyber libel charges against the veteran reporter were based on the Philippines’ controversial cybercrime statute aimed at online offences, such as stalking and child pornography.

International rights groups have called on Duterte to drop all charges against Ressa, saying they amount to state harassment. The pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Duterte, who has a history of clashing with media outlets critical of his administration, called Ressa a “fraud”. (Source: CNA)