NBI agents arrest Rappler CEO Maria Ressa for alleged cyber libel

By CNN Philippines Staff

Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa was arrested Wednesday over a cyber libel case.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents served the arrest warrant issued by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of the Regional Trial Court Branch 46 in Manila. The case involved a story published in May 2012, months before the Anti-Cybercrime Law was passed.

Ressa said the issuance of an arrest warrant on her is “interesting.”

“I’m just shocked that the rule of law has been broken to a point that I can’t see it,” she said in an interview as she was escorted out of Rappler’s office in Pasig City.

The Rappler CEO said no legal case or “black propaganda” can silence journalists in the country.

“These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail,” she added.

Ressa arrived at the NBI Cybercrime Division past 7 p.m. Wednesday. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said a cyber libel case is bailable and that Ressa can post bail anytime. Courts were closed for the day.

Ressa said it is still possible for her to post bail.

Rappler investigative desk head Chay Hofileña told CNN Philippines they were “very, very surprised” that NBI agents served an arrest warrant on Ressa today.

Hofileña said Ressa will cooperate with authorities.

“In the same way that the NBI agents were professional, Maria Ressa, as a journalist, will also be very professional and we will also follow legal procedures,” she said.

Her lawyer said they will cooperate with the NBI.

“We’ll just make sure Maria’s rights are protected, and that’s it,” Darwin Angeles said.

The Justice department said that while the original publication of the article is not covered by the law, it cannot say the same of its February 2014 update.

In the article, businessman Wilfredo Keng was said to have lent a vehicle to former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Keng denied this in the same story.

In tweets, Rappler staff said they were prohibited from taking videos of the service of the arrest warrant in their office. They were reportedly told that they will “go after you too.”

Ressa was scheduled to appear at the University of the Philippines (UP) annual campus fair as a speaker tonight. The UP Diliman University Student Council announced it will hold a “silent protest” for Ressa during the event proper.

Several critics and human rights advocates, meanwhile, slammed Ressa’s arrest.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Ressa’s arrest is a persecution by a “bully government.”

“This government, led by a man who has proven averse to criticism and dissent, now proves it will go to ridiculous lengths to forcibly silence a critical media and stifle free expression and thought,” NUJP said in a statement.

“It is clear this is part of the administration’s obsession to shut Rappler down and intimidate the rest of the independent Philippine media into toeing the lines.”

Human rights group Amnesty International said  the incident is “brazenly politically motivated.”

“In a country where justice takes years to obtain, we see the charges against Maria Ressa railroaded, and the law being used to relentlessly intimidate and harass journalists for doing their jobs as truth-tellers,” it said in a statement.

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