Int'l media groups launch global campaign to support Maria Ressa, PH press freedom

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Thursday evening, July 9, announced the launch of the “Hold the Line” global campaign and reporting initiative in support of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and independent media under attack in the Philippines. 

This came less than a month after the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 convicted Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr over cyber libel charges in a high-profile verdict on June 15.

The conviction relates to a Rappler story which raised questions about his links to former chief justice Renato Corona in 2012 – before the law was even enacted. The case hung on the correction of a typo. (READ: Maria Ressa arrest tests the bounds of Philippine cyber libel law)

“The campaign takes its name from Ressa's commitment to 'hold the line' in response to sustained state harassment and prolific online violence,” the press statement said. 

Ressa faces 7 other charges before the Court of Tax Appeals and Pasig City RTC, stemming from the mother case over the company's PDRs, which the Court of Appeals (CA) has ruled to be already cured

Ressa and Rappler have said these cases constitute a clear pattern of harassment against independent media and are meant to intimidate the organization. Rappler is not the only independent media organization in the Philippines that is on the receiving end of attacks. 

Since 2016, Duterte has lashed out against the Philippine media as he claimed journalists were “not exempted from assassination.” In his speeches, the President has hurled countless insults against reporters. (READ: 154 attacks, threats vs journalists since Duterte took office – media groups) 

Duterte has also repeatedly threatened to shut down media whom he accused of unfair reporting on his administration’s policies, including Inquirer, ABS-CBN, and Rappler. As of posting, television network giant ABS-CBN remains off-air as it fights for its franchise renewal in Congress. 

"I am moved by the incredible outpouring of support we’ve received from around the globe for our campaign to #HoldTheLine against tyranny – even as President Duterte continues his public attacks on me, the legal harassment escalates, and the state-licensed and Facebook-fueled online violence rages on. We can't stay silent because silence is consent," Ressa said.  (READ: LIST: Groups worldwide decry ‘new weapon’ vs press freedom after cyber libel verdict) 

Those interested in showing support and helping to #HoldTheLine can take two immediate steps in the run-up to Ressa’s next hearing scheduled on 22 July: 

  • Join the #HoldTheLine coalition by getting in touch via the steering committee.
  • Sign and share this petition calling for the Philippine government to drop all charges and cases against Ressa, Santos, and Rappler, and end pressure on independent media in the Philippines.

The 33 founding members of the #HoldTheLine Coalition include:

  • Committee to Protect Journalists (steering committee) 
  • International Center for Journalists (steering committee) 
  • Reporters Without Borders (steering committee) 
  • Association for International Broadcasting (AIB)
  • Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom
  • Amnesty International
  • ARTICLE 19
  • CineDiaz
  • DART Asia Pacific
  • Dart Center
  • Free Press Unlimited
  • Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
  • Global Forum for Media Development
  • International News Safety Institute
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF)
  • James W. Foley Legacy Foundation
  • Judith Neilson Institute; Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF)
  • Namibia Media Trust (NMT)
  • Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
  • Pakistan Press Foundation
  • PEN America
  • Press Freedom Defence Fund
  • Public Media Alliance
  • Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
  • Rappler
  • Rory Peck Trust
  • South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)
  • Storyhunter
  • The Signals Network
  • World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
  • World Editors Forum

– Rappler.com