A Devastating Day for Journalism

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Maria Ressa, an outspoken champion of press freedom, was convicted today in a case that is widely seen as a crackdown on independent journalism in the Philippines.

“This is a miscarriage of justice," said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “Maria is facing a bevy of charges designed to silence her and Rappler. If journalists are muzzled, democracy itself is at stake. ICFJ condemns Maria's conviction and calls for all other charges against her to be dropped.”

Ressa, the CEO and executive editor of Rappler, received the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award in 2018. ICFJ cited her pioneering news site for being at the forefront of both investigative journalism and media innovation and for shining “a spotlight on the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte and his government’s brutal war on drugs.”

Ressa was found guilty today for the criminal offense of “cyber libel” under the Cybercrime Prevention Act for a story published prior to enactment of the law. She was sentenced to a minimum of six months and a maximum of six years imprisonment. Ressa was granted bail pending appeal. Ressa faces another seven charges, including tax evasion, and has denied all of them.

For the Philippines in particular, this is a devastating blow to a country once known for a vibrant, free press. Ressa has often said that her case is the “canary in the coal mine” for independent journalism everywhere. Journalists worldwide need to do what they do best: report facts, seek the truth, and hold the powerful to account.

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