Filipino Journo Maria Ressa Arrested, International Media Cry Foul

Maria Ressa poses at Rappler's office in Pasig City Metro Manila in Philippines

Maria Ressa poses at Rappler's office in Pasig City Metro Manila in Philippines

Rappler said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents served the warrant on Wednesday afternoon, making it hard for Ms Ressa to apply for bail, and escorted her from the Rappler office to NBI headquarters.

Maria Ressa, chief executive officer of the online news agency Rappler, talks to the media after attending the summons by the National Bureau of Investigation on the cyber libel complaint filed against Rappler five years ago in Manila on Jan 22, 2018.

"She's been arrested and she's been read her rights", Rappler co-founder Beth Frondoso told AFP.

"The Philippine government's legal harassment of Rappler and Maria Ressa has now reached a critical and alarming juncture", Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

Footage streamed on Facebook showed plain-clothes party officials speaking with Ressa, while several of the site's journalists live-tweeted what was happening. The Cybercrime Prevention Act - a controversial law that prompted fears of censorship because it made online libel a crime punishable by up to 12 years in jail - was enacted months later in September 2012.

The justice department's case was based on a complaint filed by a businessman whose alleged ties to a former judge of the country's Supreme Court were reported by Rappler.

Senior Supt. Rizalito Gapas, Pasig chief of police, said Ressa was arrested at about 5 p.m. for a cyberlibel charge filed against her a year ago.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said Ressa's arrest over a "manipulated" charge was persecution.

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'The government. now proves it will go to ridiculous lengths to forcibly silence critical media'. "We call on Filipino authorities to immediately release Ressa, drop this spurious cyber libel charge, and cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler".

The offending article appeared in Rappler in May 2012.

Ressa earned the Time honor through Rappler's consistent criticism of Duterte's policy of promoting extrajudicial killings of drug suspects to eradicate the nation's widespread drug problem, primarily "shabu" or methamphetamines.

Mr Duterte had already banned a Rappler reporter from his news briefings after the Government's corporate watchdog found the news site violated a constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media when it received money from an worldwide investment firm.

Ressa has also posted bail on tax evasion charges which she denies and says were politically motivated.

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of media personnel, strongly condemned Ms Ressa's detention.

"The manner in which Ressa has been pursued by the Government, by slapping legal cases against her, is not only shameful but also a gross and wilful violation of press freedom."
She was among four journalists, including the murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, named by Time magazineas Person of the Year for 2018.

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