Maria Ressa (2nd L), head of Philippine news website Rappler, is seen next to police upon arrival at Manila airport on Friday. Leanne Jazul/ Reuters
MANILA: The head of a Philippine online news site, among media agencies deemed critical of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested again on Friday, this time over an alleged investment violation.
Rappler Inc. reported that its CEO and executive editor, Maria Ressa, was served a warrant by the police after arriving at Manila’s international airport and was taken to a regional trial court to post bail. Ressa’s co-defendants posted bail for the new charge earlier in the week.
“This is a travesty of justice. I have done nothing wrong. I am not a criminal. I am treated like a criminal,” Ressa, an award-winning journalist, told ABS-CBN News Channel, adding that the latest government move was a breach of press freedom.
The Duterte administration has denied her cases were a press freedom issue, saying she and her outfit have breached Philippine laws and have been charged by authorities and should answer before the judicial system like other violators.
The charges stemmed from a complaint by the National Bureau of Investigation that accused Rappler of violating the law by allowing a foreign investor, US-based Omidyar Network, to inject funds in the online news outfit.
The Philippine constitution bans foreign ownership of news media but Rappler has argued that it did not grant Omidyar the power to control or influence its news operations.
The country’s corporate watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission, has revoked the site’s license over what it ruled was a breach of the constitutional ban on foreign ownership and control of Philippine media outlets. Ressa is facing separate complaints for allegedly violating tax laws in connection with the foreign funds that Rappler received.
Ressa was arrested last month and freed on bail in a libel complaint filed by a businessman.
President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte on Tuesday urged the Filipino people to draw inspiration from the country’s “brave forefathers” who defended the liberty and democracy that they are now enjoying.
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