In Rodrigo Duterte's Philippines, Maria Ressa is a voice that carries, a journalist who counts. The founder of Rappler, who has established itself as an informed, independent and critical site on the deadly drug war of President Filipino was arrested Wednesday morning in Manila. And this arrest is the umpteenth sign that the Duterte regime embarked on an operation of repression and intimidation against all forms of opposition and critical independence.
The Ministry of Justice intends to sue her for cyber-defamation, an offense punishable by 12 years in prison. The authorities accused him, alongside a former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr, of having mentioned the links between a businessman, Wilfredo Keng, and a high magistrate, Renato Corona, in a 2012 article, updated in 2014.
Hailed by Time
"People should know that the red line has been crossed," said Maria Ressa to the press, before being taken away by the police officers of the National Bureau of Investigations. She indicated that she would ask for her release on bail.
In December, Maria Ressa, an experienced journalist with senior positions at CNN, ABS-CBS, was hailed by the magazine Time for Rappler's work, his "Fearless coverage of the propaganda machine and the extrajudicial executions of President Rodrigo Duterte". Maria Ressa had confided in AFP: "It's easier to trudge into a conflict zone, a war zone, than to trudge through our country's legal system turned into a weapon. […] But we will hold on. We do not really know each other until we are forced to fight to defend ourselves. "
A few weeks earlier, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also awarded him a press freedom award and his thirty years of work in Asia, including jihadist terrorism, before the creation of Rappler in 2012.
Rappler is in the sights of Philippine power. The arrest of Maria Ressa is a new episode in the judicial harassment of which the site is the subject. Since last year, at least five procedures have been launched by the Philippine justice for tax evasion, violation of the constitutional laws on foreign financing. In January 2018, the regulator had revoked the license of Rappler.
After Rodrigo Duterte became president, Rappler and his experienced journalists had started a patient and valuable Duterte drug watch and investigative work. In particular, they showed how much this vast operation resulted in extrajudicial executions, in addition to the appearance of an anti-poor war, as documented by Amnesty International. In August 2017, the execution by police high school student Kian Lyod Delos Santos had sadly embodied the slaughter of the fight against drugs.
"The charges against Rappler are clearly intended to intimidate and threaten the website and eventually shut it down. This is because of coverage on the "drug war" of President Rodrigo Duterte, which killed more than 12,000 Filipinos, mostly poor. The Philippine Ministry of Justice began filing a lawsuit against the publication in December 2016, when it became clear that the site would become a very critical spokesperson against the government, " Carlos Conde, the former correspondent of the New York Times in Manila and researcher for the NGO Human Rights Watch.
In a text published in December by the Canadian daily The Globe and mail, this rigorous investigator listed threats to the press in the Phillipines, which has one of the highest murder rates for journalists in the world. And recalled that "Antipathy to the media [allait] in the sense of the attempt of an increasingly authoritarian President to dismantle institutions capable of repressing his abuses of power ".
Duterte's arrival at the Malacanang Palace, the Philippine Elysee, coincided with harassment and intimidation campaigns against the opposition. Last September, after eight years of amnestied prosecution, the police arrested Senator Antonio Trillanes, who had opposed the President's war on drugs. Two years ago, the authorities had silenced Leila De Lima, a senator and member of the Liberal Party. On February 24, 2017, this brave and long-time opponent of the President was arrested on unsubstantiated drug trafficking charges. Since then, power has continued to target opponents and critical voices.