Award-winning Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has been hit with yet another lawsuit, following tax evasion charges levelled against her in November last year.
The move has been widely criticised by several rights groups as they see it as an attempt to stifle press freedom by the Rodrigo Duterte regime in the Philippines.
Ressa will now face libel charges. The latest indictment is over an article published in 2012, allegedly containing “defamatory” content, The Guardian reported.
Ressa, the founder-editor of online news portal Rappler, is currently out on bail following her tax evasion charges.
‘Yet Another Absurd Attack’
The department of justice has ordered the indictment of Rappler, Ressa, and former reporter and author of the article, Reynaldo Santos Jr over a contentious story uncovering businessman Wilfredo Keng’s alleged ties to a then-judge on the nation’s top court, the report added.
The charges carry a sentence of up to 12 years in jail.
Amnesty International labeled the charges against Ressa as "yet another absurd legal attack", adding that the indictment amounted to "harassment" but came "as no surprise", CNN reported.
Rappler has been critical of the government of Duterte, who in turn has accused several independent media groups in the Philippines of biased reporting, including on his crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of mostly urban poor dwellers dead and drawn condemnation by Western governments and UN bodies.
Duterte has always denied accusations of harassment. “I don’t give a s*** if you continue or not continue with your network,” he was reported as saying in 2018.
Ressa, who has worked with CNN, was the winner of two prestigious journalism awards this year, a Press Freedom award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Center for Journalists' Knight International Journalism Award.
“I’m not a criminal, but I’ve been fingerprinted like a criminal. We feel that we did not get due process.”Maria Ressa, CEO, Rappler
"We need to hold government to account, and part of the reason I'm here is precisely that," Ressa had said last year outside a Manila court.
(With inputs from The Guardian, CNN and AP)
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