Acclaimed Philippine journalist Maria Ressa was arrested at Manila’s airport Friday for allegedly violating a ban on foreign media ownership, the latest legal backlash to sting the longtime critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, Agence France-Presse reports.
This is Ressa’s second arrest in as many months, and yet another example of what free press advocates see as criminal retribution for her persistent coverage of Duterte’s government and bloody drug war.
“I’m being treated like a criminal when my only crime is to be an independent journalist,” she told reporters at the airport.
Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor of news site Rappler and a TIME Person of the Year in 2018, was taken into custody over a law which prevents foreign ownership of local media. Six other Rappler staff were also arrested and posted bail for their alleged violation of the so-called Anti-Dummy Law, according to ABS CBN News.
“Seriously?!?! Imagine the tax pesos wasted. #HOLDTHELINE,” Ressa tweeted from what appeared to be the back of a police car Friday morning.
Rappler’s website says that Ressa plans to post bail immediately. Arraignment for the case has been scheduled for April 10.
Ressa was previously arrested and spent a night in jail in February on charges of “cyber libel” in relation to a 2012 story about a businessman’s alleged links to the illegal drug trade and human trafficking. She was later freed on bail. Government prosecutors have also slapped Rappler with tax and securities fraud charges, according to AFP.
“It is clear that the government is manipulating the law to muzzle and intimidate one of its most credible media critics. This egregious harassment must stop,” Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.
Echoing the rhetoric of President Donald Trump, Duterte has smeared Rappler as a “fake news outlet” and has banned it from covering presidential events. Rights groups have warned that the criminal cases against Ressa mark an escalation of Duterte’s brutal cracked down on journalists, activists and anyone critical of him or of his violent war on drugs, which has left thousands dead.
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