Author Topic: Court convicts Maria Ressa, ex-Rappler researcher of cyber libel  (Read 654 times)


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Court convicts Maria Ressa, ex-Rappler researcher of cyber libel
Published June 15, 2020 9:10am
Updated June 15, 2020 11:32am

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former researcher were convicted of cyber libel charges in the first court decision on a string of criminal cases filed against the online news site and its leader.

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 found Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyber libel on Monday and sentenced them to six months and one day to up to six years in jail.

The two remain free after being granted post-conviction bail.

The court likewise ordered Ressa and Santos "jointly and severally" to pay businessman Wilfredo Keng, the private complainant, P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages.

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Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa handed down the ruling after less than a year of trial. The promulgation of judgment was initially scheduled for April.

"There is no curtailment of the right to freedom of speech and of the press," the judge said in the ruling.

Government prosecutors indicted Ressa, Santos, and Rappler for cyber libel in January 2019 over an article published by the news site in 2012 that cites an "intelligence report" linking Keng, a businessman and the private complainant, to human trafficking and drug smuggling.

The Philippines' anti-cyber crime law would not be enacted until months after the article was published, but prosecutors alleged that a supposedly "republished" version of the story in February 2014 is covered by the law.

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FLAG said both Ressa and Santos had "no participation" in the alleged republishing. The lawyers further argued that no evidence was shown to indicate that Rappler, Inc., a corporate entity, could be made liable under the charge.

In the 37-page ruling, however, the judge said the prosecution was able to establish the presence of all elements of cyber libel, including "actual malice," as she found that the article was "republished with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

The court said Keng did not immediately file a complaint against Rappler but instead initially reached out to demand the news site to publish his side of the story. The court said Rappler ended up not publishing a clarificatory article.

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