A message of congratulations to Maria Ressa, a continuing call to uphold press freedom in the Philippines

We in Karapatan Alliance Philippines convey our congratulations to Maria Ressa, as she receives the Nobel Peace Prize today, on the occasion of the 73rd International Human Rights Day.

It is fitting that Ressa is recognized on Human Rights Day, at a time when the Filipino people face the most atrocious attacks on people's rights. We recognize Ressa’s role as a prominent advocate of press freedom and freedom of expression. Ressa and Rappler journalists reported on and tackled press freedom violations, threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, killings in the drug war and the war against dissent, and other human rights violations — despite being at the receiving end of threats, persecution and legal harassment.

Amid attempts to silence critical voices, protests and dissent, those who dare to retell the truth and assert the people’s right to information contribute to the people’s broader movement for justice and accountability. Ressa and Rappler have made such contributions.

As Ressa receives an award for her work, many of the country’s media practitioners, journalists and press freedom advocates continue to suffer the brunt of a tyrannical Duterte rule. In their practice of the journalism profession, many were killed, arrested and detained on trumped up charges, threatened and red-tagged for being members of alternative media groups and organizations of journalists or for simply doing their jobs. Manila Standard Today correspondent and Reuters stringer Jesus Malabanan, who contributed to the publication of reports on the drug war, is the latest murder victim among journalists.

We want to pay attention to cases of media killings as the country enters the election season. It is appalling that after the Philippines was named as the second most dangerous for journalists after the Ampatuan massacre in 2009, we still witness killings of media practitioners in relation to their profession. We maintain that attacks against journalists should stop, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

Also, we continue to oppose censorship, criminalization of libel, and politically-motivated legal challenges and closure, like what the Duterte administration has done to media outfits like ABS-CBN and the recent libel charges of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi against seven news organizations. The recent Supreme Court decision on the 37 petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act is likewise expected to impact on press freedom and the exercise of freedom of expression.

Clearly, the fight for press freedom and freedom of expression as well as the people’s right to information is a continuing challenge. With the current administration’s attempts in perpetuating its brand of governance beyond 2022 through the alliance of the Marcoses and the Dutertes, we are witnessing tyranny in full throttle.

But even during times of tyranny and dictatorship, truth-tellers among journalists and media practitioners persist because of their commitment to truth and accountability, to human rights and justice, to the people’s interests and welfare. We hope that this international recognition for Ressa and Rappler can enable them to continue their work and to pursue their commitment to these principles.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General