Trial to open for Philippine journalist critical of Duterte

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa waves to photographers after posting bail outside a court building in Manila on March 29, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019

Trial to open for Philippine journalist critical of Duterte

  • Duterte, who denies being behind the case, has singled out Rappler for criticism, also banning it from covering his public events and forbidding government officials from talking to Rappler reporters

MANILA: High-profile Philippine journalist Maria Ressa’s libel trial opens Tuesday in a case that press freedom advocates see as government retaliation for her news site’s critical reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte.
Ressa, who leads online outlet Rappler and was named a Time Magazine “Person of the Year” in 2018 for her journalism, is out on bail and faces years in prison if convicted.
This case is among a string of criminal charges that have hit Ressa and Rappler over the past year, prompting allegations that authorities are targeting her and her team for their work,
The news portal has reported extensively and often critically on Duterte’s policies, including a deadly crackdown that rights groups say may be a crime against humanity.
“The message that the government is sending is very clear,” Ressa told reporters in February as she posted bail after spending the night in jail over the libel case: “Be silent or you’re next.”
The case that opens Tuesday centers on a Rappler report from 2012 about a businessman’s alleged ties to a then-judge of the nation’s top court.
Government investigators initially dismissed the businessman’s 2017 complaint about the article, but state prosecutors later decided to file charges.
The legal foundation of the case is a controversial “cybercrime law” aimed at online offenses ranging from stalking to child pornography.
Ressa, 55, argues the law did not take effect until months after the story was published.
Government lawyers say it is effectively a new article since Rappler had updated it in 2014 to fix a typographical error.
While the plaintiff is a private citizen, like all criminal cases in the Philippines the suit is prosecuted by government lawyers.
Ressa and Rappler also face tax and corporate fraud cases.
Ressa’s presence in court is not mandatory and she is not expected to attend the hearing, according to Rappler.
The libel case has drawn international attention, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressing concern over democratic rights.
Prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who joined Ressa’s legal team this month, said the case echoed a recurring theme in her work, where “journalists who expose abuses face arrest while those who commit the abuses do so with impunity.”
Duterte, who denies being behind the case, has singled out Rappler for criticism, also banning it from covering his public events and forbidding government officials from talking to Rappler reporters.


Russia expels Japanese journalist in military espionage row

Updated 28 January 2020

Russia expels Japanese journalist in military espionage row

  • The expelled journalist works for Japan’s Kyodo News agency
  • The reporter was told to leave Russia in 72 hours

MOSCOW/TOKYO: Russia said on Monday it expelled a Japanese journalist last month for trying to obtain secret information related to Russian military capabilities in the Russian Far East, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
The expelled journalist worked for Japan’s Kyodo News agency, it said on Tuesday, denying the accusation of attempted espionage.
Kyodo did not identify the reporter but said he was detained on Dec. 25 in Vladivostok and released after about five hours of questioning.
The reporter was told to leave Russia in 72 hours, Kyodo said.
“For safety reasons, he left the country the following day. It is our understanding that he was engaged in standard reporting activities,” Kyodo said in an emailed statement.
Russia’s foreign ministry summoned a Japanese embassy official to make an official diplomatic protest over the incident, RIA reported.
Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it could not comment on the matter.
Ties between Japan and Russia have been strained for decades by a territorial dispute over a chain of islands in the Pacific.
Known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories, the islands were seized by the Soviet army in the waning days of World War Two.
The dispute has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a formal peace treaty and developing their relations.
“The Japanese citizen was detained by Russian law enforcement officers in Vladivostok on Dec. 25, 2019 trying to receive secret materials about Russia’s military potential in the Far East,” RIA quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying.