Journalist Maria Ressa Arrested for 'Cyber Libel' in the Philippines

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa leaves her office after she was arrested in Manila on Wednesday

The site and Ressa, 55, have been hit with tax evasion charges and now a libel case after clashing repeatedly with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte over his deadly crackdown on narcotics that has killed thousands.

Rappler said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents served the warrant on Wednesday afternoon, making it hard for Ms Ressa to apply for bail, and escorted her from the Rappler office to NBI headquarters. As she remained in the Philippines following the bail, she has proven not to be a flight risk, leaving unclear why the judge presiding over her case refused her bail on this occasion. Instead of delivering a talk on press freedom, as she planned to do, she was taken into custody.

"Press freedom is not just about journalists, right?"

Rappler continued to publish on Wednesday, including covering Ressa's arrest, and the offending articles appear to still be available on the website.

The US senator Brian Schatz also condemned the arrest of Ressa on what he called "trumped-up charges". She was also its lead investigative reporter on terrorism in South East Asia.

One of the paper's most dogged chroniclers of Duterte's Philippines, Pia Ranada, was eventually banned from reporting from the Malacañang Palace. She had just flown back to the Philippines after receiving prestigious journalism awards in the United States.

Duterte has a complicated relationship with the news media.

The typically outspoken Duterte has yet to issue any public comment on the Rappler situation at press time.

Ms Ressa and a former Rappler researcher, Reynaldo Santos Jr, were indicted recently, the Department of Justice said.

"The case is ridiculous and the fact that they issue an arrest warrant is a travesty of justice", Ressa told journalists after her arrest.

Now, there are more charges.

However, the cybercrime law in the Philippines was enacted four months after the story was published. The "cyber libel" law that the article allegedly violates was passed in September 2012 and has no retroactive provisions.

According to a Rappler article, the complaint did not stem from Keng's ownership of the vehicle, but from the background story saying he has alleged activities involving illegal drugs and human trafficking.

"This is brazenly politically motivated, and consistent with the authorities" threats and repeated targeting of Ressa and her team, ' it said.

In a statement posted on the website of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said, "efforts are underway for both the PCOO and Facebook to sit across the table and discuss and hopefully, reach agreements" to get a "shared goal of responsible and intelligent use of social media". "No one is safe". People chanted "defend press freedom" and "free Maria Ressa". "It's clear this is politically motivated, I don't know why the government is afraid of the truth".

Since winning the presidency in 2016, Duterte has consolidated his sway over security forces, congress, the senate and the Supreme Court.

Ressa has played a key role in raising awareness about threats to journalists at home and overseas. The magazine said it wanted to emphasize the importance of reporters' work in an increasingly hostile world. She was also part of a group invited to New York's Times Square on New Year's Eve alongside the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"If this is another of several attempts to intimidate us, it will not succeed, as past attempts have shown".

"These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail", Ressa said in a statement.

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