(New York, NY) – One of the Philippines most prominent journalists Maria Ressa and reporter Reynaldo Santos, Jr. were convicted Monday of cyber-libel, charges brought by a businessman in response to an article writer five years earlier about his alleged ties to a top judge. Ressa – co-founder, CEO, and executive editor of the Rappler news website – and Santos could face up to six years in prison. Summer Lopez, PEN America’s senior director of free expression programs, said the following: 

“This verdict is a disgraceful travesty of justice. It marks a sad day for democracy in the Philippines and for press freedom the world over. The entire case is absurd – the cyber-libel law was not enacted until after the story was published – but that is beside the point. It has been obvious from the beginning that this case was just another attempt to silence Maria. She has fearlessly persisted in standing up to strongman President Rodrigo Duterte and holding him to account. Maria has demonstrated time and again that she is a journalist of astonishing bravery and commitment, and this verdict is clearly intended to send a message not just to her but to journalists the world over. Instead, let it remind the world why we defend press freedom – because of people like Maria who will stop at nothing to speak truth to power. We stand with these courageous journalists and call on the Philippines government to immediately dismiss all charges against Maria and Reynaldo.”

Lopez said: “Of course, we should not forget that Duterte’s rhetoric about the media is an echo of President Trump’s; Duterte has called Rappler ‘fake news’ because they dare to challenge him. Now would be a very good time for the U.S. to speak out in defense of Ressa, who holds U.S. citizenship, and Santos and state clearly that journalism is never a crime.”