Journalist Maria Ressa Arrested Yet Again As Philippines Keeps Finding Bogus Reasons To Arrest Vocal Critic
from the hold-the-line dept
As we’ve discussed before, reporter Maria Ressa is a powerhouse journalist, who started an important Filipino news site, Rappler.com. Rappler has been (quite reasonably) highly critical of the Filipino government under President Duterte, and over the past few years, the Duterte government has responded with a bunch of highly questionable criminal complaints against Ressa, which all appear to be in direct violation of the country’s 4th Amendment, which is a near carbon copy of the American 1st Amendment. It forbids any law that abridges the freedom of the press (among other things).
And yet… for over a year now, the government has been trying to claim that Rappler violated the so-called anti-Dummy law in the Philippines. Apparently, the Philippines has a law that says, in certain types of industries, Filipino companies cannot have foreign ownership (this, by itself, already seems silly, but leaving that aside…). Rappler does not have any foreign owners. However, it did receive a grant from the well known Omidyar Network, and in order to receive the grant, Rappler used a semi-complicated system called a Philippine Depository Receipt (PDR), in which the company sells these assets to Omidyar, and the assets are pegged to the value of shares in the company, but they grant no ownership benefits or rights. The Filipino government has said for a while that these create a “dummy status” in pretending Omidyar isn’t really taking an ownership stake when it is.
All of that is nonsense, though. This is entirely about intimidating Ressa and Rappler. Last month she was arrested on bogus “cyber libel” charges (over violating a law that wasn’t even a law when the supposed “libel” happened). And now, on arriving back in the country from a journalism conference abroad, Ressa was immediately arrested yet again. As Rappler notes, this is actually the 11th case filed against Rappler, its directors and its staff since the government first claimed that the Omidyar grant violated the law.
This is shameful, if not surprising, by the Duterte government. Of course, it also demonstrates just how scared they are of a tiny independent news organization. If that’s the case, it makes you wonder just what it is they’re afraid Rappler will be reporting going forward…