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The Interview

‘Our rights, our democracy are at stake’, says Philippine journalist convicted of ‘cyberlibel’

THE INTERVIEW
THE INTERVIEW © France 24

Maria Ressa, a prominent investigative journalist in the Philippines, is facing up to six years in jail after she was convicted of “cyberlibel”. In an interview with FRANCE 24, she claimed that the case against her was fabricated as part of a deliberate campaign to stifle press freedom under the regime of President Rodrigo Duterte.

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The co-founder of the news site Rappler has already faced a litany of government investigations and legal cases, and says other key media outlets have also been subject to efforts to shut them down. Ressa told FRANCE 24 she was hopeful, nevertheless, that the appeal she lodged in this latest case would be heard before the court's judges.

While the journalist stopped short of describing Duterte as a dictator, she accused the Philippine president of undermining democracy and the rule of law.

His response to the Covid-19 pandemic, she said, was heavy-handed and led by government officials instead of scientists. In further evidence of Duterte's clampdown on freedoms, she warned that a new anti-terrorist bill was a threat to human rights, since it would grant the state new powers to arrest and prosecute activists. She added that criticism of her country's human rights record by the UN would hopefully put enough pressure on the government to change its ways.

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