#Human Rights
The United Nations, The Philippines Government

Today's judgement by a Philippines court convicting acclaimed journalist Maria Ressa and researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr of "cyber libel" is a black day for democracy and freedom of expression. This conviction will have serious implications for democracy in the Philippines and the region. The judge released them on bail pending an appeal, but if they lose, they could spend up to seven years in prison.

The case bought against Ressa and Santos Jr is flimsy at best. First, it alleged Ressa's flagship website Rappler.com had violated the “cyber libel” law, even though the story was published four months before the law even existed. The judge agreed that Rappler had “republished” the story, when it corrected a spelling error in 2014, thus making it subject to the law. The judge also accepted the prosecution’s theory of “continuous publication”, to get around the fact that the statute of limitations on libel in the Philippines is just one year.

The National Union of Journalists said it was a “shamelessly manipulated charge”, and an “act of persecution by a bully government”. Amal Clooney – the UK’s special envoy on media freedom and one of Ressa’s lawyers – described the case as “one of the most brazen and consequential of the decade”. Ressa calls it “lawfare”.

Amnesty International's Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin described the verdict as a "sham" that should be quashed.

"The accusations against them are political, the prosecution was politically motivated and the sentence is nothing but political," Bequelin said in a statement.

"This guilty verdict follows the shutdown of ABS-CBN, which remains off the air - also after coming under the President's attacks. The international community cannot remain silent in the face of this brazen vendetta against the press."

We, the undersigned, call on the UN to condemn the judgement of the Philippines Count against Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr as a travesty and a further attempt to circumscribe press freedom and human rights in the Philippines.

We also call on the Philippines government and legal system to overturn this judgement and restore freedom of the press and expression in the Philippines.

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The Justice for Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr petition to The United Nations, The Philippines Government was written by Alex Lee and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.