Journalists who uncover undesirable information or criticise undemocratic regimes often face intimidation, persecution or violence. Increasingly, journalists are also being attacked with fabricated charges. They face accusations of blasphemy, sedition, financial malpractice or corruption – charges which usually have nothing to do with their publications.
It happened to Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who spent two years in prison after politically motivated and fictitious charges saw her convicted for illegal business, tax evasion and abuse of power.
Silence an independent news platform
Ressa appears to be next. She is the CEO of Rappler, one of the few independent journalistic platforms in the Philippines. Ressa is facing charges for tax evasion. It is abundantly clear that the government of the controversial and violent President Rodrigo Duterte is using these bogus charges to silence Ressa and Rappler.
Rappler has extensively covered Duterte’s dirty war on drug users, dealers and distributors, which has cost the lives of thousands of people. The website has also shed light on Duterte’s abuse of martial law currently in force in the southern Mindanao region. Under the pretext of fighting an ISIS-inspired armed group, Duterte is laying the foundations for a new dictatorship.
Award winning journalist
Ressa’s remarkable journalistic achievements in the Philippines and the founding of Rappler.com stand out as a success story for quality journalism in a country in which repression and violence are still far too pervasive. Her work has won her awards from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Unesco. On November 8 of this year she was given the Knight International Journalism Award by the International Centre for Journalists in Washington, DC.
Judicial attack after extensive harassment
On November 2, 2017, Ressa spoke at our annual event Free Press Live about the online threats and harassment she received in the past. She said: 'It was relentless. That was when I was personally getting about 90 hate messages an hour during one month. The difficulty about it is you have no idea when this turns into a real threat in the physical world.' The Philippine government now appears to have found a new way to silence Maria Ressa.