World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - Philippines, 13 February 2019

Protest Campaign - Philippines, 13 February 2019

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His Excellency Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Philippines
Manila, Philippines


13 February 2019


Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the prosecution of news website Rappler for “cyber libel” under legislation that was not enacted when the alleged libellous article was published.

On 5 February, the Department of Justice ordered the indictment of Rappler, its founder and executive editor Maria Ressa, and Reynaldo Santos Jr, a former reporter. The charges relate to an article written by Mr Santos Jr revealing businessman Wilfredo Keng’s ties to a senior judge. Mr Keng filed the complaint in October 2017, more than five years after the story appeared.

We are seriously concerned that the charges are politically motivated and form part of a systematic campaign by the government to use the law as a weapon to silence Rappler’s reporting, which has often been critical of your presidency. Rappler and Maria Ressa are currently facing numerous legal proceedings, ranging from an appeal against the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to revoke the website’s licence, to bogus charges of tax evasion and multiple libel complaints. Moreover, the most recent cyber libel charges have been brought against the advice of the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI’s) own lawyers, which is again indicative of political motivation.

We would also like to remind you that bringing charges for a crime that was not enacted at the time of the alleged infraction is not only a legal absurdity, it also risks rendering the Cybercrime Prevention Act unconstitutional, as it would become an 'ex post facto' law. It would also send a chilling message to all online publishers.

We respectfully call on you to take all possible steps to ensure that the NBI follows the advice of its own lawyers and withdraws the indictment for cyber libel. We also ask you to halt the apparent persecution of Rappler and Maria Ressa so that they may continue to play an active role in civic debate and carry out the watchdog function of the press.


We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Yours sincerely,


Michael Golden
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


David Callaway
World Editors Forum 



WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.



Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2019-02-13 11:05

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...