National Press Club

National Press Club calls for charges against journalist Maria Ressa to be dropped

February 14, 2019 | By Kathy Kiely | kielyk@missouri.edu

The National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute is calling on the Philippine government to end its intimidation campaign against Maria Ressa, a journalist targeted for her investigations of official corruption in her home country.

Ressa, whose work has been widely honored by fellow journalists and press freedom organizations, was arrested earlier this week in the newsroom of Rappler, the online news site that she founded. The site is known for its critical coverage of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ressa reportedly spent the night in custody before her lawyers were able to post bail Thursday.

“This represents the latest escalation of Duterte’s efforts to stifle legitimate scrutiny of his government,” said Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “We stand with Maria Ressa and our Philippine colleagues.”

Ressa graduated from Princeton University and worked across Asia as a journalist for a number of outlets, including CNN, before founding Rappler in 2012. Her arrest this week on charges of “cyber-libel” comes just two months after she was taken into custody on charges of tax evasion.

The National Union of Philippine Journalists has condemned the actions as “a desperate move . . . to suppress the media.” The U.S. Embassy in Manila called for the charges against Ressa to be “resolved quickly” according to “international standards of due process” in a Thursday tweet.

“We are dismayed that this kind of intimidation is happening in a country that claims to be a constitutional democracy,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “We would hope that government, business and other leaders of democratic societies recognize this threat to free speech for what it is and use whatever influence they have on the Philippine government to end it.”

One of the world’s leading journalism organizations, the National Press Club represents more than 3,100 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide. Through its nonprofit Journalism Institute, it works to advance press freedom and grow journalism in the public interest.