Ressa arrest for cyber libel not harassment: NPC

MANILA The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) on Friday took exception to claims of some groups that the recent arrest of Rapplerchief executive officer Maria Ressa for cyber libel is an act of political harassment by the government.

"The NPC maintains that to inject something that is not there and thus politicize a strictly judicial process involving a legal dispute between two private parties the private complainant on the one hand and Rappler, a private media outfit, on the other does not, and will not, serve the end of justice, which was the aim of the complaint to begin with," the NPC said in a statement.

The group also emphasized that a libel case is a legal recourse available to everyone as provided for in the country's laws.

"To politicize a legal recourse available to everyone who feels aggrieved by the media is not only to twist the facts of any particular libel case in order to solicit sympathy from a public largely ignorant of the facts of the dispute that gave rise to the complaint," it added.

While citing that the Rappler publisher's experience is an inconvenience experienced by other media practitioners, the NPC said this should not relegate someone to the altar of press freedom for martyrdom.

The NPC, however, expressed dismay over the manner by which the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) served the warrant of arrest against Ressa.

"While the NPC recognized that the NBI served the warrant as directed by the court, the manner by which it was done smacks of bad taste at the close of office hours, thus affording Ms. Ressa little, or no time at all, to post the necessary bail and thus ensuring that she should spend the night in jail. The NBI could have served the warrant much earlier, if it wanted to," it said.

The NPC said it will be renewing calls on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other concerned departments of the executive branch for a joint review and reiteration of the 2001 NPC-DILG Memorandum of Agreement to address the problem of journalists being arrested for libel.

The NBI, meanwhile, declined to comment on the matter.

On Wednesday, a warrant of arrest was served against Ressa and Rappler writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. after they were charged under the provision on content-related offenses, which include libel committed through a computer system or similar means.

On Thursday, the Rappler head posted bail of PHP100,000 for her temporary liberty.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed businessman Wilfredo Keng in October 2017 over Santos' article, published in 2012 and updated in 2014, linking him to impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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