In what was seen as a test for press freedom in the Philippines, journalist Maria Ressa has been found guilty of cyber libel. However, she denied the charges and claimed they were politically motivated.
The editor of a news website, Rappler, was announced guilty by a Phillippine court today along with a former writer at the Rappler for “cyber-libel”, wherein the duo were convicted of written defamation. Both have been released on bail pending appeal, but could face six years in prison, reported BBC.
Eight years ago, a Rappler story on businessman Wilfredo Keng had alleged ties to a former judge. The judge on Monday said Rappler offered no proof to back up its allegations against Mr. Keng.
Critics across the globe have said that the trial is aimed at silencing critics of President Rodrigo Duterte. But the president and his supporters have accused her, and her site, of reporting fake news.
Judge Rainelda Montea added that her verdict was based on evidence presented to the court – adding that freedom of the press “cannot be used as a shield” against libel.
Ms Ressa, 56, and her colleague were allowed to remain free on bail, pending a possible appeal. But if the conviction stands, it carries a sentence of up to six years.
“To all Filipinos, this isn’t just about Rappler, this isn’t just about us, this is about every one of us,” Ms Ressa said after the verdict. “Freedom of the press is the foundation of every single right you have as a Filipino citizen.”