Weaponizing law is ‘draining democracy dry’ – Philippines journalist Maria Ressa


Award-winning Philippines journalist Maria Ressa told CNN that her arrest on “cyber libel” charges is an example of how the law is being “weaponized” against critics of the country’s President Duterte.

She was released on bail Thursday after her lawyer paid the 100,000 Philippines peso bail ($1,915) fee after she spent the night in jail. Speaking to CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout, Ressa said the law was “draining … democracy dry.” “The only thing I can think of is that the government wants me to feel its power,” she said.

Ressa’s detention prompted an international outcry among pro-democracy and media freedom advocates who fear her arrest will echo around the world.

Deeply concerned with reports courageous journalist @mariaressa has been arrested on orders of #Duterte in #Philippines, Canadian human rights advocate Irwin Cotler (@IrwinCotler) tweeted. A free press is the cornerstone of a free society. Politically-motivated charges against #MariaRessa is a sham, her arrest brings shame. #DefendPressFreedom

Ressa’s Rappler was one of three organizations at the forefront of the battle against disinformation to be awarded the National Democratic Institute’s 2017 Democracy Award (above).

Entitled “Disinformation vs. Democracy: Fighting for Facts,” the evening’s discussion explored the threat of disinformation to democracy around the world, NDI adds:

Rappler comes from the root words “rap” (to discuss) and “ripple” (to make waves). Rappler has been at the forefront of investigative reporting in the Philippines on the use of “trolls” (individuals compensated to spread disinformation) and social media “bots” (computer code), which are used to distort the truth and disseminate false news. Because of its pioneering reporting in this area, it has itself become a target of disinformation efforts. Rappler’s story shows how disinformation and computational propaganda can be used by domestic political actors in new democracies to undermine democratic discourse.


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