Contrary to reports being disseminated by foreign media, the arrest of Philippine online news site Rappler’s Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa has been welcomed by many people, not condemned. It seems a lot of Foreign media outlets are getting fed the wrong information about Ressa’s problems with the law. The Associated Press was even forced to issue an apology after they stated that Ressa was arrested after criticising President Rodrigo Duterte:
The AP deleted a Wednesday tweet on journalist Maria Ressa’s arrest. It incorrectly said she was arrested for criticizing Philippine President Duterte. Authorities said she was arrested over a libel complaint, but Ressa argues the government misapplied the law to target her.
At least the AP retracted its erroneous report. We can’t say the same about other news sites and veteran journalists. So far, Al Jazeera hasn’t corrected its false claim that “Award-winning Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has been released after widespread condemnation over her arrest.” That’s false. She was released after she posted bail! This is why the public doesn’t trust mainstream media anymore.
It’s quite shocking to read false information especially when you know the truth. And the truth is, only members of the Opposition are not happy with Ressa’s arrest. Looking at the comment thread on Al Jazeera’s Twitter account, the foreign media outlet was the one that received widespread condemnation.
Al Jazeera went on to report that “Rappler is known for its tough scrutiny of the Duterte administration”. But Rappler hasn’t produced anything ground-breaking. Their articles are sloppy and mediocre. The very fact that Ressa and her staff are being sued for libel is proof of this. Rappler has not reported anything that can be considered a game-changer. The editor of Wikileaks Julian Assange even called Rappler’s article titled “Bots, Assange, an alliance: Has Russian propaganda infiltrated the PH?” the stupidest article he has ever read.
Rappler articles are definitely moronic. The publication has contributed to the dumbing down of Philippine society because instead of helping keep the Filipino people well-informed, they only present one side – the side that fits their own agendas.
Another foreign journalist Christiane Amanpour of CNN is being duped by Ressa into thinking the latter was arrested because the Duterte government is desperate. She is even campaigning for Duterte to “free” her as soon as possible. The comment thread on her Twitter account was bombarded with messages correcting her. A lot of people were actually disappointed that a veteran investigative journalist like Amanpour would issue statements without finding the facts on the case. Amanpour does not even know that it was a private individual who filed a libel case against Ressa and not Duterte. It was a case filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng regarding a 2012 article titled “CJ using SUVs of controversial businessman.” The author of the article, Reynaldo Santos Jr, claimed that the late former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona used a car owned by Wilfredo Keng during his impeachment trial. The article also painted Keng as a criminal who was into smuggling and human trafficking.
It’s quite evident that Amanpour and a lot of foreign journalist still think that the Philippines is so backward that a President can simply charge anyone just like that. They also assume that members of the judiciary are in cahoots with Duterte in his supposed quest to get rid of his critics. That is an insult to the intelligent men and women who run the courts.
It would help if Ressa herself would start talking about the case instead of just saying the same thing over and over – that the law is being “weaponised” against her and that Duterte is abusing his power just because she is critical of him. But does Ressa even know the details of the case herself? When asked by a reporter if they even spoke to the complainant, she responded by saying she doesn’t know the details of the article. That’s unacceptable. Ressa was faking innocence — as if she can get away with using that. The article was written in 2012 and the complainant was reportedly trying to appeal to Rappler to take it down. Instead of acceding to his request, Rappler even updated it in 2014. This is precisely the reason why the article is covered by the cybercrime law, which was signed by former President BS Aquino in 2012.
Both foreign and local journalists are showing their arrogance in this issue. They are supposed to be trained to get the correct information before publishing their work. They are supposed to be more professional in the vetting of information than the average person. It is quite alarming to think they could be stupid and just pretending they are knowledgeable.
The libel case against Rappler is good news particularly for people like me who followed and wrote extensively about the impeachment trial of former CJ Corona. I knew then that mainstream media outlets like the Inquirer and Rappler were publishing unverified reports against Corona just to put him under a bad light. They didn’t think of the consequences of their actions. They didn’t consider the fact that they were destroying people’s reputations including that of Mr. Keng. Back then, I felt sorry for Corona. He was just too nice and didn’t bother suing everyone who maligned him. He died a broken man.
It was a private individual who filed the libel case against Ressa, but if you think about it, every Filipino became her victim when she kept publishing unverified articles against Corona during his impeachment trial. Filipinos lost a good man because of the lies. Some Netizens are thanking Keng for suing Rappler and showing everyone “how to fight the entitled spoiled press of the Philippines” and that “the move is for us ordinary citizens who were oppressed by unprofessional partisan journalism.”
Ressa is stressing out and seems to be having a breakdown. She’s not happy about the comments she’s seeing online. She’s convinced that the people posting on comment threads are troll accounts with “marching orders” to convince foreign journalists against her. Where is her proof? These journalists still supporting her will get disappointed in her if they find out the truth. Ressa’s fall from grace will be even harder if she keeps up the lies.
It is time to hold journalists like Ressa accountable for their actions. Journalists are very powerful. They can make or break innocent people’s reputations. Even when wrong, some of them do not apologise.
There are a few journalists who have spoken out against Ressa’s claim that freedom of the press is being undermined. Multi-awarded journalist Jiggy Manicad confirmed that the government is not stifling free speech. Indeed, there have been a lot of journalists in the past who were sued for libel, but they did not complain about being persecuted the way Ressa does. The National Press Club also issued a statement confirming that Ressa‘s case is not an act of political harassment against government critics and that we should not make a martyr out of Ressa. Thank goodness some are starting to speak out against her. Ressa has been acting like she is God’s gift to Philippine journalism for years.
Ressa’s case is quite ironic. BS Aquino was the one who signed the cybercrime act into law in 2012. Maria Ressa was helping Noynoy oust Corona during his impeachment trial when her online site published the libellous article against Keng in the same year. Now she could be jailed using BS Aquino’s cybercrime law.
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