Karapatan on the rearrest of Rappler's Maria Ressa

Karapatan is one with journalists and media workers in decrying the vivid violations on the people’s right to information and freedom of expression, as exemplified by the cyber-attacks against websites of alternative media organizations and the rearrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa on politically-motivated charges. 

We welcome and support today’s filing of civil charges against entities alleged to have been used by State actors in undertaking cyber-attacks against alternative news media organizations Bulatlat, Kodao, and Pinoyweekly. Websites of organizations such as that of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Karapatan, Ibon Foundation and Bayan have been subjected to similar attacks. These insidious acts, coupled with threats and even arrests of members of alternative press, are meant to silence journalists and human rights defenders in online spaces, which are channels of news reports that expose the realities of human rights violations. These reports openly challenge the mainstream government narrative on human rights, as well as highlight the various facets of the people’s struggles and campaigns against repressive and anti-people policies and projects. 

We condemn today’s rearrest of Maria Ressa of news site Rappler on yet another set of charges which many deem as politically motivated cases by the Duterte administration. We view the charges and acts against Rappler and its reporters as forms of reprisal on Rappler’s reportage on the government’s sham drug war. This form of judicial harassment as well as the use of draconian laws criminalizing libel in broadcast, print and online media are direct violations on press freedom.

The Duterte government's persistent attacks against those who remain critical to his government is a glaring indication of its vindictiveness and non-tolerance of the people's exercise of their civil and political rights. This judicial harassment is also in stark contrast to the leeway and shameless favors granted to government-allied plunderers and alleged drug lords, to the point that these parasites are almost guaranteed freedom amid the outstanding cases against them.

Such attacks, including the killings of journalists, are not just against particular groups or individuals, but these are systematic acts of suppression of the people’s right to information and freedom of expression. Attempts to muzzle the dissemination of information on issues of public interest, including human rights cases, deny the general public of our right to know and access these information. Harassment of journalists through online attacks and filing of politically motivated charges seeking to intimidate them or hamper their work conveys a chilling effect on the public’s exercise of freedom of expression. 

We call on all free press and human rights advocates to push back against any and all forms of infringement on basic rights and fundamental freedoms under the current administration.