Dec 3, 2020 @ 15:06

Maria Ressa indicted anew for cyberlibel

Rappler’s Maria Ressa was charged with cyberlibel anew before the Makati City regional trial court for tweeting a sceenshot of an already taken-down story of the Philippine Star involving controversial businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Incidentally, Keng was the same complainant in the cyberlibel complaint against Ressa and former writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. They were both convicted last June.

Their conviction is now on appeal before the Court of Appeals.

Ressa was charged by the prosecutor’s office on November 23, saying the tweet was malicious and was not a “knee-jerk internet reaction.”

“The tweet was done willfully, unlawfully, feloniously, publicly and maliciously, with the intention of attacking the honesty, virtue, honor, integrity, character, and reputation of Keng,” the resolution read.

“Obviously, the foregoing cannot be considered a knee-jerk reaction on the part of respondent, hence, she should be liable for the consequences of her Twitter post,” it added.

Ressa posted a bail bond of P24, 000 last November 27 before Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 147 Judge Maria Amifaith S. Fider-Reyes.

The complaint stemmed from Ressa’s Feb. 15, 2019 tweet, showing screenshots of a 2002 Philippine Star article linking Keng to the murder of a former councilor.

The Philippine Star took down the article after Keng’s legal team considered pressing charges.

“While the Philippine Star itself took the prudence of removing the libelous article, the respondent made sure that it will be read by her 350,000 followers and anybody else who has access to the internet,” Keng said in his complaint.

Last June, the Manila regional trial court found Ressa and Santos both guilty of cyber libel, reiterating that press freedom is not absolute.

In a 37-page decision, Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of Branch 46 sentenced Ressa and Santos to a maximum prison term of 6 years for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act

Also, Ressa – a former reporter of CNN and staunch critic of maverick Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte – and Santos were ordered to pay jointly and severally Keng the amount of P200, 000 as moral damages and P200, 000 as exemplary damages.

In its ruling, the court ruled that “freedom of the press should not be used as a shield for accountability.”

“With the evolution of government and society, it has been accepted and established that the exercise of the right to free speech and of the press is not absolute as it comes with enormous responsibility to ensure that another person’s right is respected,” the decision said.

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