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Rappler’s Ressa charged with libel again

Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa

THE Makati City Prosecutor’s Office has filed another cyberlibel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa for tweeting a sceenshot of an already taken-down story of the Philippine Star involving businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Keng was the same complainant in the cyberlibel complaint against Ressa and former writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. They were both convicted last June.

Ressa was charged by the prosecutor’s office on November 3, saying the tweet was malicious and wasn’t a “knee-jerk internet reaction.”

“Obviously, the foregoing cannot be considered a knee-jerk reaction on the part of respondent, hence, she should be liable for the consequences of her Twitter post,” read the resolution by the prosecutor’s office.

Ressa posted a bail bond of P24, 000 last November 27 before Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 147 Judge Maria Amifaith S. Fider-Reyes.

The complaint stemmed from Ressa’s Feb. 15, 2019 tweet, showing screenshots of a 2002 Philippine Star article linking Keng to the murder of a former councilor.

The Philippine Star took down the article after Keng raised the possibility of a court action.

“While the Philippine Star itself took the prudence of removing the libelous article, the respondent made sure that it will be read by her 350,000 followers and anybody else who has access to the internet,” Keng said in his complaint.

Last June, the Manila regional trial court found Ressa and Santos both guilty of cyber libel, reiterating that press freedom is not absolute.

In a 37-page decision, Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of Branch 46 sentenced Ressa and Santos to a maximum prison term of 6 years for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act

Also, Ressa – a former reporter of CNN and staunch critic of maverick Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte – and Santos were ordered to pay Keng jointly and severally the amount of P200,000 as moral damages and P200,000 as exemplary damages.

In its ruling, the court ruled that “freedom of the press should not be used as a shield for accountability.”

“With the evolution of government and society, it has been accepted and established that the exercise of the right to free speech and of the press is not absolute as it comes with enormous responsibility to ensure that another person’s right is respected,” the decision said.

Their conviction is now on appeal before the Court of Appeals.

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Hector Lawas
Court reporter for more than 20 years