High-profile Philippine journalist Maria Ressa freed on bail

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 14, 2019 - Duration: 01:59s

High-profile Philippine journalist Maria Ressa freed on bail

Maria Ressa, chief of Philippine news website Rappler known for its scrutiny of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, has been released on bail after her widely condemned arrest for libel charges the day before.

Jayson Albano reports.

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High-profile Philippine journalist Maria Ressa freed on bail

A high profile journalist detained in the Philippines has been freed on bail, after her arrest drew outrage from free press advocates around the world.

Maria Ressa, the chief of Philippine news platform Rappler, had been arrested on libel charges on Wednesday (February 13).

(SOUNDBITE) (English) RAPPLER CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MARIA RESSA, SAYING: "The message that the government is sending is very clear and someone actually told our reporters this last night: be silent or you're next." And as Reuters' Martin Petty reports, her site has been known to butt heads with the country's leader Rodrigo Duterte.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS PHILIPPINES BUREAU CHIEF MARTIN PETTY, SAYING: "Rappler is a very energetic news organization that intently scrutinizes all the activities of the government.

They have a lot of dogged determined reporters who really get stuck-in, and clearly this is pushing Duterte's buttons." Rappler's reporting has often scrutinized Duterte's policies and questioned the accuracy of his statements.

Ressa was one of the journalists named as Time Magazine's person of the year in 2018 for Rappler's coverage of Duterte's bloody drug war and the lawsuits they say she faces in an effort to stifle her work.'

She's now accused of libel over an article that linked a Filipino businessman to murder, human trafficking, and drug smuggling.

The article was written in 2012 but Rappler's lawyers say the libel case was suddenly revived, after it had been originally dismissed for lacking merit.

Critics say, it was a move by the government meant to intimidate journalists.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS PHILIPPINES BUREAU CHIEF MARTIN PETTY, SAYING: "Duterte has vented his anger at Rappler on several occasions.

He once called them a fake news outlet.

He's even suggested they might be linked to the CIA.

He says that he's open to criticism, he doesn't mind it.

But I think it's quite clear there are people around him in his administration who aren't quite comfortable with some of the reporting that Rappler has done." A spokesperson for the president says the case has nothing to do with Duterte, and that he has no interest in punishing journalists who challenge his rule.

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