In response to the cyber-libel court case in which Maria Ressa has been found guilty, AJF’s Peter Greste can be quoted as saying the following:
“This ruling sets an extraordinarily damaging precedent for press freedom in the Asia–Pacific region, and the world.
“To suggest there was no political pressure in this case would be incredibly naïve. The Philippine government has made it abundantly clear that they don’t think Maria should be free. The judge will have been acutely aware of this pressure.”
“As a former political prisoner myself, I am deeply concerned about Maria and her former colleague, researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. who was also convicted in this case. More broadly though, I am concerned about what this means for the people of the Philippines. They might not all read Maria’s website, Rappler.com, but they all benefit from a free press that is able to question and challenge those in power. This judgement strikes a blow for every independent journalist in the country, chilling the kind of enquiry that makes democracy work.
“But this is not just about the Philippines. The human rights group, Freedom House, has charted a decline in democracy across the Asian region, and this conviction accelerates that trend. The AJF urges democratic governments – including Australia’s – to respond swiftly and decisively. This is a test case for the world’s resolve in standing up to authoritarianism by supporting press freedom.”
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