Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa plans to appeal her cyber libel conviction at the country’s Supreme Court, her lawyer said Tuesday, after losing her legal battle and having months added to her sentence.
The appeals court in its October 10 decision upheld its earlier ruling that affirmed a lower court’s conviction, and added eight months to her six-year jail sentence. Ressa remains free during her appeals process.
Lawyer Theodore Te called the outcome “disappointing”, adding it “ignored…the evidence presented.”
Ressa and former Rappler researcher and writer Reynaldo Santos were convicted in June 2020 in a cyber libel case brought by a businessman over an online article in 2012 by Rappler that linked him to illegal activities.
The court at the time ruled Rappler, a news site known for its investigative journalism, had not given the businessman a chance to refute the allegations in its story, despite him contacting Rappler asking to give his side.
Ressa, a dual US-Filipino citizen, is head of Rappler, which earned a reputation for its in-depth reporting and tough scrutiny of then President Rodrigo Duterte. She said the case is an attempt to harass her.
Philippines orders news site Rappler to shut down, founder Maria Ressa says
Ressa and Rappler have been fighting numerous legal battles, including alleged tax offences and violation of foreign ownership rules on domestic media.
“The ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against me and Rappler continues, and the Philippines legal system is not doing enough to stop it,” Ressa said after losing her appeal.
The plight of Ressa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, has raised international awareness about treatment of media in the Philippines, which is one of Asia’s most dangerous places for journalists.
Last week, a radio journalist was shot dead, among scores killed in the past decade.