Ressa's lawyer paid Thursday's 100,000 Filipino Pesos ($ 1,915) bail for her release after she spent the night in custody.

Following her release, the co-founder and editor of the online news magazine Rappler, who has become prominent for her tireless coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal drug war, delivered a passionate speech on press freedom and called her case to "abuse of power and arming of the law."

"The message the government is sending is very clear: be silent or you're next," said Ressa, 2018 Time Person of the Year. "So I say, and I appeal to you, not to mention.

"Press freedom is not just about journalists, is it? It's not just about us, it's not just about me, it's not just about Rappler, press freedom is … the foundation of every single right of every Filipino to the truth so that we can hold the powerful accountable. "

Article 2012 under the magnifying glass

Ressa, who had already been bailed out on charges of tax evasion lawsuits she filed against her last November, was arrested shortly after 5:00 pm Wednesday at Rappler's Manila office.

The latest lawsuit relates a 2012 story claiming that businessman Wilfredo Keng has links to illegal drugs and human trafficking.

Opinion: Why should the arrest of Maria Ressa annoy anyone?

The article was published by Rappler two years before the entry into force of new laws against cyber-slander in the Philippines.

The National Bureau of Investigation decided in January that Ressa could not be charged because the report preceded the law. However, this judgment was later overturned by the Ministry of Justice as the article was updated in February 2014.

JJ Disini, one of Ressa's lawyers, described the charges as "politically motivated" and said that any updates made to the offending article in 2014 were "just a change in punctuation".

What is Rappler, the website of the Philippine government?

"If the slander had already been committed in 2012, changing the punctuation marks would not have been able to republish this slander," Disini added.

Rappler's extensive coverage of the Philippines under President Duterte has made the site – and its journalists – targets of its followers.

Ressa has been repeatedly charged with defamation and tax evasion, which critics described as politically motivated to silence independent media in the Southeast Asian country.

Anger of journalist groups

Media officials have criticized the arrest of Ressa and argued that the time gap between the alleged change in the article and its arrest indicated a political element.

"You have to wonder why the person named in this article has been waiting five years to make any charges," said Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"In the beginning, the Philippine government decided not to file charges, and then they changed their minds, the whole thing smells quite open, it looks like a political hack job to intimidate the press."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the arrest was "clearly a desperate move by the government to suppress the media" and a government rejection.

Antonio Trillanes, a Filipino senator and critic of Duterte, also arrested by the government's Department of Justice, has tweeted a brief statement in support of Ressa.

"This move exposes his despotic regime and his fear of accountability," the post read. "We must unite and stand for the freedom of the press in these difficult times, because Duterte systematically destroys our democracy."

The lawsuit against Ressa comes at a time when press freedom in the Philippines and around the world is being called into question.

In 2018, Ressa was named a group of journalists named Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

Other members of the group included Jamal Khashoggi, the contribution of the Washington Post, which was killed at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul in October, and Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar a year ago they arrested the mass killings of Rohingya Muslims.

Joshua Berlinger, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Karen Smith of CNN contributed to the report.

,

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.