The Asia News Network on Thursday noted with concern and alarm the arrest of Maria Ressa, executive editor and CEO of leading Philippine news site Rappler, for pursuing the truth in a case with significant ramifications for society.
It said it was seriously disturbed by the manner of her arrest and urged the Philippine government to refrain from any form of intimidation against the media.
It noted Rappler's statement that the warrant for her arrest dated February 12, 2019 was served close to 5pm on Feb 13, when courts were about to close.
It noted that this was based on a complaint filed by a businessman five years after a story was published on Rappler's website in 2012. The complaint was dismissed by the country's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Cybercrime Division in February, 2018 after finding that there was no basis to proceed, given that the one-year prescriptive period had lapsed.
It noted that the case was revived eight days later and now led to her arrest.
Rappler's story linked the businessman to murder, human trafficking and drug smuggling, which the businessman's lawyers said was wrong and defamatory. It also linked him to a senior judge of the country's top court.
These were serious charges that need to be examined and the truth ascertained, ANN said.
Arresting a leading member of the journalistic community without any attempt to show that the allegations made in the article were false raised alarm about the conditions under which they must operate, it said.
That the arrest follows charges of tax evasion against Rappler, which was still being investigated, inevitably raised serious questions about whether the charges were politically motivated, it said.
As Asia's leading alliance of 23 news media, ANN urged President Rodrigo Duterte and his government to be fair and impartial in the treatment of media organisations in his country. ANN