Philippines arrests journalist Maria Ressa on libel charge

Maria Ressa repeatedly clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019
0

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.


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
0

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).