Press Statement

February 14, 2019

References: Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, +639173162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

Karapatan on the arrest and detention of Rappler’s Maria Ressa

The arrest of journalist Maria Ressa and the absurd charges against her and online news site Rappler are all about freedom of expression in the Philippines.

It is indicative of a vindictive government which is intent on dominating all forms of media with its own twisted narratives, while simultaneously cutting off any platform for others to express alternative opinions. Evidence-based findings that prove critical to the anti-people campaigns of the regime are shut down while fake news and deliberate lies are massively peddled by state-backed keyboard warriors.

This recent incident shows how draconian laws such as the Anti-Cybercrime Act and provisions regarding criminalization of libel are being used to persecute critics of whoever is in power. It shows how this administration can suppress fundamental freedoms through the justice system and distort it to stifle basic rights, including press freedom.

The arrest and detention of Ressa is the latest in the multitude of examples of the authoritarian path treaded by the Duterte regime.

Extrajudicial killings of the poor are a daily fare while murderers in uniform are left off the hook. Arrests of dissenters, critics, peace advocates, and anyone on trumped up charges are heralded as this administration’s legacy while plundering politicians are dancing their way back into power. Indigenous peoples, peasants, and Moros, are killed, tortured and harassed in Mindanao, Negros, Samar, Bicol and the rest of the country. Alternative media and critical voices are subjected to online attacks. All these affect the exercise of people’s freedom of expression, and yes, the most basic right to live a dignified life.

Our only recourse is to fight back, online and offline, to defend and uphold our basic rights and freedoms.