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US 'concerned' over Maria Ressa's conviction for cyber libel

The United States has expressed concerned over the Manila Regional Trial Court's conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos for cyber libel.

In a statement, US State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said the US "calls for resolution of the case in a way that reinforces the U.S. and Philippines’ long shared commitment to freedom of expression, including for members of the press."

Former Senator Hillary Clinton earlier posted on social media that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was convicted for her work as a journalist.

"Maria Ressa was convicted in the Philippines yesterday for doing her job," said Clinton, who's also a former secretary of state.

"As Amal Clooney wrote, the message to other journalists is “Keep quiet, or you’ll be next.” We must fiercely protest attacks on the press. They are attacks on democracy," she added.

Ressa and Santos 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.

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 businessman Wilfredo Keng to human trafficking and drug smuggling.

"This is a pivotal moment for the Philippines, and a pivotal moment not just for our democracy but for the idea of what a free press means," said Ressa in a press conference after the decision handed down.

"I think we're redefining what the new world is gonna look like, what journalism is going to become. Are we going to lose freedom of the press, will it be death by a thousand cuts, or are we going to hold the line so that we protect the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution even if power attacks you directly," she added. -NB, GMA News