MANILA — Former US secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright on Tuesday expressed solidarity with Rappler CEO Maria Ressa following her cyber libel conviction, which supporters said was an attack on press freedom.
The journalist, who Time magazine named as a Person of the Year in 2018, faces up to 6 years behind bars in Monday's culmination of the case that stemmed from a 2012 article linking a businessman to alleged illegal activities.
Ressa was convicted "for doing her job," Clinton told her 28.1 million followers on Twitter.
Quoting international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, the US leader said the verdict was a message to other journalists to "Keep quiet, or you’ll be next."
"We must fiercely protest attacks on the press. They are attacks on democracy," said Clinton, who headed the US Democratic ticket in 2016 and lost to Republican Donald Trump.
Albright also wrote on Twitter, "I stand with Maria Ressa."
Watchdogs earlier said the guilty verdict against Ressa marked a dangerous erosion of press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte, whose anti-narcotics drive was the subject of Rappler's critical reports.
Duterte's government has said the case is not politically motivated and that authorities must enforce the law, even against journalists.
In 2018, Duterte denounced Rappler as a "fake news outlet" and subsequently banned Ressa and her colleagues from his public engagements.
Ressa and her co-accused, former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr., will remain free on bail they previously and were given 15 days to appeal, according to their counsel.
Both were ordered to pay P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages. — With reports from Reuters and Agence France-Presse