‘I’m ready’: Maria Ressa braces for worst ahead of cyberlibel case verdict


Posted at Jun 13 2020 11:08 PM

‘I’m ready’: Maria Ressa braces for worst ahead of cyberlibel case verdict 1
Veteran journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa poses for photographs after her interview with Karen Davila for "Headstart" in Makati, February 15, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA—Veteran journalist Maria Ressa said she is bracing for the worst outcome that could put her years behind bars, ahead of a Manila court's verdict on Monday on a cyberlibel charge.

"I'm ready. I'm prepared for the worst. Rappler is prepared for the worst but we are desperately hoping for the best because we believe that the mission of journalism is extremely important today," she said in a virtual interview with the International Center for Journalists that aired over Facebook Saturday.

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 is set to hand down the verdict on the cyberlibel case against Ressa and a former researcher of news website Rappler, in connection with the case filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Keng accused them of smearing his reputation over a May 2012 article alleging that he supposedly allowed former Chief Justice Renato Corona to use an SUV. The same article cited an intelligence report alleging Keng had a shady past.

Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, said she has embraced fear to be able to accomplish something.

"The attacks were 4 years in the making . . . I was arrested last year, not once but twice. As the verdict day came closer and closer, I know the possibility is there. I said this to the Princeton Class of 2020, the day we accomplish things is to embrace our fear," she said.

Aside from the cyberlibel case, Rappler and Ressa are facing charges of tax fraud, violating the Securities Regulation Code and the Anti-Dummy Law, among others.

The award-winning journalist has said that the charges against her and Rappler are the current administration's way of intimidating those who seek to hold government to account, a claim dismissed by Malacanang officials.

Ressa, who was named by Time magazine Person of the Year in 2018, said journalism does not only hold power to account, but also help government in times of crisis.

"We believe we are helping the government, especially in the time of COVID when they seem lost. Journalists ask questions not to be critical, it is to ask questions to help them find answers if they don't know how. A government being defensive forgets the check and balance of journalism," she said.

During the event, Ressa also took social media giant Facebook to task on handling disinformation as the major platform in delivering the news.

"Let's talk to Facebook. Demand better behavior from Facebook, demand that Facebook protect its users from manipulation . . . If Facebook can change its actions, things would be better," she said.

Ressa, who is also featured in the PBS investigative documentary "A Thousand Cuts," urged the public to continue to hold the line against disinformation, threats to human rights, democracy and press freedom.

"Do not feel helpless. This is in your hands. This is your chance to build the democracy that we deserve because if you don't do anything then we will get what we deserve," she said.

"A Thousand Cuts," directed by Filipina documentarist Ramona Diaz, offers an inside look at the key players in this escalating war between press and government in the Philippines and the ongoing threat against freedom of the press.