San Mateo, CA – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) today issued the following statement in response to the convictions of Rappler founder Maria Ressa and former Rappler journalist Reynaldo Santos Jr. for “cyber libel.”

“I am deeply troubled by the attacks on press freedom in the Philippines which also impact my Filipino constituents in San Mateo County. Access to the truth is essential to democracies.

“These convictions represent an alarming escalation of the Duterte Administration’s crackdown on independent media in the Philippines. Maria Ressa and her colleagues shone a bright and unyielding light on extrajudicial killings and human rights crises generated by Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs.’ The guilty verdict is the meritless culmination of a harassment campaign in which the justice system was weaponized to punish Ressa’s audacity in speaking truth to power and scare journalists into silence.  

“Since Duterte assumed office, the world has witnessed a chilling degradation of human rights and basic freedoms, including press freedom, in the Philippines. Ressa’s conviction comes less than a month after the Philippine Supreme Court refused to allow ABS-CBN, the largest broadcaster in the Philippines and one of the country’s main sources of critical coverage, to resume broadcasting and mere weeks after the Philippine government rammed through ‘Anti-Terror’ legislation making it easier for law enforcement to target and detain those who express dissent without charge.

“I call on President Duterte to cease attacks on independent media, allow ABS-CBN to resume broadcasting, address the impunity surrounding violence against journalists, and drop the convictions against Ressa and all politically motivated charges against journalists. I also urge the U.S. Department of State to prioritize the case of Maria Ressa and the issue of threats against freedom of press in its engagement with the Government of the Philippines. Without an immediate course-reversal, I fear that one of our most cherished friends and important allies will continue an alarming anti-democratic descent.”

In March 2019, Rep. Speier introduced H.Res. 233, which condemns the Government of the Philippines for state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings and widespread human rights abuses, among other provisions. In January 2020, the U.S. Senate passed a companion version of Rep. Speier’s human rights resolution.

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