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'NOT THE END'

Local, int'l advocates urge public to speak out after Maria Ressa conviction


Advocates in the Philippines and abroad on Monday urged the public to continue speaking out after the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former researcher for cyber libel.

Ressa and former reporter Reynaldo Santos, Jr. face up to six years in jail after a Manila trial court found them guilty of cyber libel over a 2014 "republication" of an article that was originally published before the law punishing it was enacted in 2012.

Minutes after news of the conviction broke, Inquirer columnist John Nery asked human rights lawyer Chel Diokno in an online forum if it was "inordinately optimistic" of them to have expected an acquittal.

"It's certainly optimistic to do that given the state of justice in our country. But at the same time, I think that, you know, this is not the end of it even as far as this case is concerned," Diokno said.

"There's still a long legal battle ahead. And there's a strong need for us to still generate a lot of public opinion, a lot of pressure on the government, on the courts, to look very deeply into this case," he added.

Rappler's lawyer, Theodore Te, earlier said they will decide what legal action to take in the next 15 days.

For her part, Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, said the verdict was an "invitation" for advocates to "double and triple our efforts."

"This is no time for retreat, this is no time for us to question our commitment to the basic principles and values that are also on trial here," she said at the forum.

She said Rappler's case "has resonated and will continue to resonate far beyond the Philippines."

International barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher, QC said the conviction was "deeply concerning" and an "ugly stain on the Philippines' reputation." She called on the international community to condemn the "grave attack on independent journalism and media freedom in the strongest terms."

Gallagher, alongside human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, leads an international team of lawyers representing Ressa.

Asked what ordinary citizens can do, Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was jailed in Egypt, stressed the importance of social media in drumming up attention to issues.

He also encouraged the public to write to their representatives and diplomats and to support press freedom organizations.

"It matters not just within the Philippines but internationally as well, so we all need to be pushing this," he said.

Lipinski added to subscribe to "credible" and "fact-based" reporting.

"If we don't support that kind of journalism while we still have it, it just increases the threat against it so we need to be good consumers too," she said.—AOL, GMA News

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