Rappler’s Ressa acquittal, a victory against media repression – CPDG

January 19, 2023

The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) applauds the decision of the Court of Tax Appeals to acquit Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa and Rappler of the tax evasion charges filed by the Duterte administration on date. This, by far, is the latest triumph against state intimidation on its critics and media repression.

Under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s governance, human rights violations especially directed against activists including the media heightened with increasing impunity. This is reflected in the Philippines ranking 128th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index and 7th in the Global Impunity Index. There have been 22 incidents of killings, and arrests and detentions of journalists under then President Duterte’s watch. Among the most notable is the arrest of the Tacloban 5 last February 7, 2020 which includes community journalist Frenchiemae Cumpio. 

While the clearing of some of the charges filed against Rappler happened under Marcos Jr. administration, it should be noted that crimes against journalists continue with impunity under his watch. This, hence, is in negation to what Marcos Jr. seeks to project himself – a decent leader and more respectful of human rights compared to the Duterte administration. 

According to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, at least 10 incidents of press freedom violations were documented just for the month of October 2022. Among the incidents is the assassination of radio broadcaster Percy Lapid on October 3, 2022. Lapid was a hard-hitting journalist and a staunch critic of the Duterte and Marcos Jr. administrations.  

CPDG continues to stand in solidarity with the media and all of civil society in pushing back to assert press freedom, the right to correct information among all other human rights of Filipinos, and in reclaiming democratic spaces. We reiterate our demands to ensure an enabling media and civic spaces in the country; ensure that laws will not be weaponized to curtail legitimate dissent and violate rights and freedoms; and immediately and unconditionally release all journalists, along with development workers, human rights defenders, and activists detained for  exercising their fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.#eof#