Philippines arrests journalist Maria Ressa on libel charge

Maria Ressa repeatedly clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Philippines arrests journalist Maria Ressa on libel charge

  • Her detention on a charge of “cyber libel” is a dramatic escalation in the legal pressure bearing down on Ressa and her website Rappler
  • Philippine journalists immediately attacked the surprise serving of the warrant

MANILA: Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, who has repeatedly clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested in her Manila office on Wednesday in what rights advocates called an act of “persecution.”
Her detention on a charge of “cyber libel” is a dramatic escalation in the legal pressure bearing down on Ressa and her website Rappler, which was already facing tax evasion charges that could shut it down.
“She’s been arrested and she’s been read her rights,” Rappler co-founder Beth Frondoso told AFP. “Fingers crossed — we’ll try to post bail tonight.”
Ressa, who was named a Time Magazine “Person of the Year” in 2018 for her journalistic work, left the Rappler offices with agents from the National Bureau of Investigation and surrounded by cameras.
Rappler has drawn the administration’s ire since publishing reports critical of Duterte’s signature anti-drug crackdown that has killed thousands of alleged users and pushers since 2016.
However, the new case against Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos, Jr. stems from a 2012 report written about a businessman’s alleged ties to a then-judge on the nation’s top court.
While investigators initially dismissed the businessman’s 2017 complaint about the article, the case was subsequently forwarded to prosecutors for their consideration.
Philippine journalists immediately attacked the surprise serving of the warrant.
“The arrest of... Ressa on the clearly manipulated charge of cyber libel is a shameless act of persecution by a bully government,” said the National Union of Journalists’ of the Philippines.
“The government... now proves it will go to ridiculous lengths to forcibly silence critical media,” it added.
Duterte has lashed out at other critical media outfits, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and broadcaster ABS-CBN.
He had threatened to go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes or block the network’s franchise renewal application.
Some of the drug crackdown’s highest profile critics have wound up behind bars, including Senator Leila de Lima, who was jailed on drug charges she insists were fabricated to silence her.
The law that forms the foundation of the case takes aim at various online offenses, including computer fraud and hacking.
Under the tax case, the government accuses Rappler Holdings Corp., Ressa and the site’s accountant of failing to pay taxes on 2015 bond sales that it alleges netted gains of 162.5 million pesos ($3 million).
The Philippine justice system is notoriously overburdened and slow, with even minor cases taking years to be judged.


Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

Updated 20 April 2019
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Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

  • Arab News expanded its footprint entering Pakistan in mid 2017
  • Its Pakistan Edition was founded on February 2018 and has been a major success

ISLAMABAD: Arab News’ online Pakistan edition, which launched on Feb. 8, 2018, has established itself as a credible extension of the Riyadh-based newspaper, which today marks its 44th anniversary.
Arab News entered Pakistan as part of the newspaper’s ongoing global and digital expansion, and to tap news from other parts of Asia, hiring skilled journalists and freelance contributors.
An exclusive interview in October 2018 with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was newly elected as prime minister at the time, catapulted Arab News in Pakistan.
Realizing the news potential in the country, Arab News capitalized on its success and set up a bureau, but not before landing more special reports that grabbed the local media’s attention and attracted a larger readership.
The website www.arabnews.pk became the parent organization’s first in a series of country-specific online editions that the newspaper is planning to launch, and is part of its “more digital, more global” strategy.
Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, who on Thursday was appointed minister for science and technology, officially inaugurated the newspaper’s Pakistan bureau earlier this year.
Led by award-winning veteran journalist Baker Atyani, and under the guidance of Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, the team at the Pakistan edition has worked diligently to penetrate the country’s vibrant news market.
As such, followership of the newspaper’s Pakistan social media account has quickly ballooned.
Its online coverage of the first visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in February was widely praised.
Arab News published special reports and features on the deep-rooted and diversifying ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Also a major hit was Abbas’s exclusive, lengthy sit-down with President Dr. Arif Alvi during the crown prince’s visit.
Another exclusive that garnered a serious online buzz was on Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offering to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan.
The Pakistan edition has kept a special focus on business and finance, and has spoken with movers and shakers, including those in the corridors of power.
In August 2018, it exposed the ruling party’s hit single “Rok Sako To Rok Lo Tabdeeli Aayi Re,” produced for the last general election, as being suspiciously similar to a remixed version of the Indian religious song “Bankya Maa Re Nach. The report was instantly picked up by Pakistani media.
Days before the election, Atyani conducted a one-on-one exclusive with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Arab News’ Pakistan edition is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). With the edition’s success, the SRMG is looking to replicate the model across Asia.