Maria Ressa Found Guilty of Cyber Libel

The Rappler CEO faces up to six years behind bars.

(SPOT.ph) Rappler chief and journalist Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. have been found guilty of cyber libel in a high-profile case against property developer Wilfredo Keng. The decision was handed down by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa on June 15.

In a press conference held after the promulgation of the verdict, Ressa said she was "devastated," and added, "I appeal to you to protect your rights. We are meant to be a cautionary tale. We are meant to make you afraid. So I appeal again, don't be afraid. If you don't use your rights, you will lose them."

Ressa and Santos were found guilty of having allegedly defamed Keng in an online article originally published in May 2012, linking him to the then-Chief Justice Renato Corona. Keng filed a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation in October of 2017, after years of continued correspondence with the Rappler team to have his name cleared. The official trial started in 2019, less than a year before the verdict came out.

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The Anti-Cybercrime law of 2012—which is the basis of the verdict—was enacted in September 2012, months after the article first came out. The court ruled that the article was republished in 2014

Several groups have condemned the case, stating that the Cybercrime Law is being used against journalists, "That places all of us in danger. We don’t know what article we published and someone just decided now you wronged me," pointed out National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair Nonoy Espina in an ABS-CBN report.

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