The #HoldtheLine Coalition condemned the third libel case against Rappler CEO and founder Maria Ressa filed by a college professor tagged in the “thesis for sale” report.
The #HoldtheLine Coalition said the “state-enabled harassment campaign” targets to silence critical journalism aimed at holding power to account and exposing corruption.
“The #HoldtheLine Coalition stands with Maria Ressa and Rappler as they stare down yet another criminal cyber libel charge amid escalating legal harassment in the Philippines,” its statement read.
“The abuse of the Philippine legal system to go after Maria Ressa and Rappler with spurious cyber libel charges further emphasizes the need to scrap criminal libel and let the news media get back to its job of reporting on the global health pandemic and other issues of critical public interest,” the statement further read.
The #HoldtheLine Coalition is composed of over 80 groups led by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Center for Journalism (ICFJ), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The third cyber libel complaint was filed against Ressa by De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde professor Ariel Pineda over a Rappler article alleging that he passed students on their thesis subject in exchange for P20,000.
Similarly charged is Rappler reporter Rambo Talabong.
The complaint was filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 24.
Judge Maria Victoria Soriano-Villadolid issued arrest warrants against Ressa and Talabong on Monday (January 11), the 10th arrest warrant against Ressa in less than two years.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for the decriminalization of libel, citing how laws “continue to be used to intimidate journalists rather than to seek redress.”
NUJP said the third cyber libel case against Ressa and first against Talabong underscores the “long overdue” need to decriminalize libel.
The union said at least 28 libel or cyber libel cases have been filed against journalists since mid-2016, a number of these were initiated by politicians and government officials.
“Therefore, we once again call on Congress to do away with one of the most commonly used weapons against independent journalism by making the decriminalization of libel and cyber libel a priority, and thus prove their oft-professed for civil rights,” NUJP said.