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NUJP: Rappler libel case part of gov't campaign to intimidate media

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Sunday called on the courts to uphold judicial independence on the cyber libel case filed against Rappler officials.

In a statement, the NUJP called the case "part of this vindictive government's ruthless campaign to silence or intimidate independent and critical Philippine media."

"We have seen how the State and its agencies twisted the application of an already bad law into one more weapon in the legal arsenal it has brought to bear against Rappler, not to mention the misbegotten ban on coverage by a chief executive whose personal whims hold more weight than the public interest," the statement read.

"On Monday, we, together with all those who treasure our rights and liberties, will be watching and waiting, hoping judicial independence and wisdom will set things right," it added.

A Manila court is scheduled to promulgate its decision on the cyber libel against Rappler officials on Monday, June 15, two months later than initially scheduled.

The case stems from charges filed by government prosecutors against Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa and former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. over an article the news website published in 2012, months before the anti-cybercrime law was enacted.

The article cites an intelligence report that linked businessman Wilfredo Keng, the private complainant, to human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Keng's complaint was dismissed by investigators at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in 2018, but this was transmitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for investigation a week later.

In 2019, prosecutors indicted Ressa and Santos over a version of the story that was allegedly republished in 2014.

Rappler has since argued that the 2014 update was just to correct a typographical error.

Ressa and Rappler continue to face other cases for supposed tax evasion and violation of the anti-dummy law, which she called as acts of harassment by the government.

For his part, Keng's camp expressed confidence that they would score a victory against Ressa during the promulgation on Monday.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier claimed that cases and arrests made against Ressa were not attacks on media. "Far from it," he said.

In 2019, the Malacañang reporter of Rappler was banned from physically covering President Rodrigo Duterte, which the Palace said was due to the company's failure to secure the necessary accreditation. — DVM, GMA News