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Maria Ressa contradicts Roque claim that Duterte values press freedom

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Tuesday said that presidential spokesperson Harry Roque's claim that President Rodrigo Duterte supports press freedom is misleading and a lie.

Ressa said there were “patterns” in Duterte’s actions that showed otherwise including the series of his criticism and alleged attack against Rappler.

“Roque is a smart man. I can sit down and go through President Duterte's statements—you'll see them in A Thousand Cuts, the film—his statements that attacked media, that attacked the press,” she said in an interview on ANC.

“It's a selective memory for Mr. Roque,” she added.

On Monday, Roque argued Duterte never filed a libel case against any journalists and actually supported Davao broadcaster Alexander Adonis in raising concerns over libel laws before the United Nations.

“I feel like to say that President Duterte values freedom of the press is misleading at best, a lie at worst,” Ressa said.

She recollected the instances when Duterte hit the news site which, according to her, started from attacks on social media.

“The exponential attacks on social media trying to label me as a criminal were followed by President Duterte, a year later, saying those same attacks in his State of the Nation Address...” Ressa said.

After the SONA in July 2017, Ressa said the first subpoena was issued against them.

“Within a few months in January 2018, we received a shutdown order, a revocation of our permit or license to operate. We challenged it in court,” she said.

“But the advice we got is, ‘You know just let it pass, just shut down the company, and start another one.’ This is all behind the scenes,” she added.

She noted that the issue is not a personal thing for her, “but four years into the administration, we have patterns, actions.”

Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted for cyber libel charges on Monday by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.

They remain free after being granted post-conviction bail.

In 2019, government prosecutors indicted them over a Rappler article in 2012 that cites an "intelligence report" linking businessman Wilfredo Keng, the complainant, to human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Keng’s daughter, Patricia Anne, was appointed as a member of the Philippine Commission on Women for the youth sector in September 2019, Philippine News Agency reported.

However, Keng’s counsel, lawyer Melissa Andaya said the businessman does not personally know Duterte despite the appointment of his daughter.—AOL/BM, GMA News