The CEO of Rappler, a news website critical of the government in the Philippines, has been arrested at its headquarters in Manila. Maria Ressa said the accusation of “cyber-libel” is an attempt by Rodrigo Duterte’s government to silence the publication. It is the latest in a string of charges against her for various alleged crimes, including tax evasion. Rappler journalists live-streamed the arrest on Facebook and Twitter.
Footage streamed on Facebook showed plain-clothes party officials speaking with Maria Ressa, while several of the site’s journalists live-tweeted what was happening. Officers from the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) reportedly ordered them to stop filming and taking photos. Miriam Grace Go, Rappler’s news editor, tweeted that NBI agents had taken Ms Ressa off Rappler’s property.
The latest charge against Ms Ressa stems from a May 2012 report on a businessman’s alleged ties to a former judge in the Philippines’ top court. The case comes under a controversial “cyber-libel” law, which came into force in September 2012, four months after the article in question was published. Officials first filed the case against her in 2017, but it was initially dismissed by the NBI because the one-year limit for bringing libel cases had lapsed. However, in March 2018, the NBI reopened the case. Rappler has published a number of reports critical of Mr Duterte’s violent war on drugs, which has seen thousands of people killed in the last three years.
Ms Ressa was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her journalism.