Silencing the voices of criticism
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Rodrigo Duterte wants to silence Filipino journalists, said the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Maria Ressa, head of the news site Rappler.com, was arrested last week on a seven-year-old libel allegation “that was revived, like a rotting zombie,” by the very National Bureau of Investigation that had previously dismissed the case. “Elements of harassment and state vendetta are so patently obvious in this case.” First, the libel charge is bogus: It stems from a 2012 story published before the law criminalizing online libel was passed. Next, the conduct of the police—arresting Ressa in the evening so she couldn’t post bail and had to spend the night in jail—showed “malicious intent.” This harassment is clearly payback for Rappler’s critical reporting of Duterte’s brutal anti-drug crackdown, which has seen thousands of alleged users killed by police and vigilantes. Targeting journalists, of course, “is tick box No. 1 in the authoritarian playbook,” and Ressa isn’t the first to be arrested. Five reporters were detained while covering the violent dispersal of a strike last spring. At least 12 journalists have been killed since Duterte took office in 2016. The government has also been smearing reporters as communists, and many news sites have suffered cyberattacks. Taken together, these assaults are an effort to destroy the free press. If they succeed, we’ll have a dictatorship.