Maria Ressa 'failed to defend self' in libel case: Locsin tells US


Posted at Jun 22 2020 12:34 PM | Updated as of Jun 22 2020 12:45 PM

Maria Ressa, Executive Editor and CEO of Philippine news website Rappler, speaks to the media beside former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr, after both were found guilty of cyber libel, in Manila City Hall, June 15, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

Award-winning journalist Maria Ressa "failed to defend herself" in court, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said Monday, after the US said it was concerned about the cyber libel conviction against her. 

Washington "calls for resolution of the case in a way that reinforces the US and Philippines’ long shared commitment to freedom of expression, including for members of the press," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said last week. 

"They're concerned by the verdict, but we have to explain to them and I think I've adequately explained to them that she failed to defend herself," Locsin told ANC. 

Ressa, a dual US-Filipino citizen whose website Rappler has put President Rodrigo Duterte under tough scrutiny, was convicted of cyber libel last Monday and faces up to 6 years in jail, in a ruling widely seen as a blow to media freedom. 

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"The rule of law must prevail. After her conviction in the lower court, she should appeal immediately to the upper court and not appeal to social media and the like-minded there," said Locsin. "This is a matter of law." 

Reynaldo Santos, a former Rappler researcher and writer, was also found guilty in the case. Both were granted bail pending an appeal.

The court decision has fueled concern over human rights in a country where Duterte's war on drugs has left thousands dead. He recently renewed a threat to kill drug dealers, despite condemnation in a UN report.

US lawmakers have criticized what they see as harassment of Ressa. — With a report from Reuters 

ANC, June 22, 2020