Lawyer Clooney welcomes dismissal of second libel suit against Maria Ressa

Rappler's Maria Ressa 150621
Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa ... "holding the line" in response to sustained state harassment and prolific online violence. Image: Ted Aljibe/RSF/AFP

By Camille Elemia in Manila

Human rights lawyers Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, who lead the international defence legal team, have call on the international community to ensure that all charges against Philippines journalist and editor Maria Ressa are dropped.

The legal team of Rappler CEO Ressa welcomed the recent dismissal of the second cyber libel charge filed against her.

Clooney said Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 Judge Andres Soriano was correct in dismissing the “absurd case”, reports Rappler.

Clooney called on authorities to drop the other charges filed against Ressa and overturn her 2020 conviction of cyber libel, a decision that is still pending with the Court of Appeals.

“One down, eight to go. Prosecutors in the Philippines were right to drop this absurd case, and Judge Soriano was right to dismiss it with prejudice,” she said in a statement.

“But since none of the cases against Maria have any merit, the authorities should also drop the other prosecutions and overturn her criminal conviction for libel.”

UK lawyer Caoilfhionn Gallagher, co-leader of the team, also lauded the dismissal of the case and thanked Ressa’s supporters for fighting the “nonsensical charges”.

Stemmed from Ressa’s tweets
The second cyber libel complaint stemmed from Ressa’s tweets, which were screenshots of an old newspaper article about the complainant, businessman Wilfredo Keng.

“Ms Ressa should never have faced an arrest warrant, the threat of imprisonment, and the stress and expense of defending herself over an innocuous tweet and screengrab,” Gallagher said.

“This [month’s] good news marks one small battle victory in a far larger and longer war.

“Ressa already faces up to six years imprisonment following her conviction on baseless charges last year, and she continues to be threatened by the Philippines authorities with decades more in prison,” Gallagher said.

Clooney and Gallagher called on the European Union and the international community to ensure that all charges against Ressa are dropped.

“She is a journalist who is being pursued for her journalism and she should be allowed to get back to work without further harassment. If not, we should see concrete action by the United States, the EU, and the group of states that form the Media Freedom Coalition,” Clooney said.

Gallagher said the Philippines benefits from a preferential trading agreement with the EU, on the basis that it complies with international human rights standards.

Continuing barrage
“This continuing barrage of cases against Ms Ressa, punishing her for her work and attempting to silence investigative journalists in the Philippines, makes a mockery of this. The EU and the international community must now press the authorities to ensure that all charges against Ms Ressa are dropped and all other proceedings against her halted,” Gallagher said.

The #HoldTheLine Coalition, composed of 80 international media, human rights, and advocacy groups, also welcomed the dismissal of the case and urged President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration to follow suit and drop all eight remaining cases and charges against the award-winning journalist.

Ressa faces eight other charges before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, and the Manila Regional Trial Court.

Republished from Rappler with permission.

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