MANILA: Philippine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa will appeal a conviction for cyber libel in the country’s Supreme Court, her lawyer said on Tuesday, as the veteran journalist fights an over six-year prison sentence.
Ressa, co-founder of online news site Rappler, and the publication’s former journalist Rey Santos Jr., are facing jail terms in a case filed in 2017 by businessman Wilfredo Keng over a 2012 article that linked him to illegal activities.
In 2020, a regional court in Manila convicted Ressa and Santos — a decision both of them appealed.
The Court of Appeals on Monday upheld its earlier ruling that affirmed the lower court’s conviction, and added eight months to the sentence, a decision labeled “disappointing” by Ressa’s legal counsel, Theodore Te.
“It ignored basic principles of constitutional and criminal law as well as the evidence presented,” Te said in a statement. “Maria and Rey will elevate these issues to the SC (Supreme Court) and we will ask the SC to review the decision and to reverse the decision.”
A vocal critic of Rodrigo Duterte, Ressa has been known for tough scrutiny of the former Philippines president and his policies. She and Rappler have been facing a series of criminal charges and probes.
“The ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against me and Rappler continues, and the Philippines legal system is not doing enough to stop it,” she said after the appeals court ruling. “This is a reminder of the importance of independent journalism holding power to account.”
Last year, Ressa became the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines — sharing the prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.
She was recognized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for efforts to safeguard freedom of expression and her work and criticism of the Duterte regime’s “war on drugs” — an anti-drug policy that since 2016 has since led to the deaths of thousands of Filipinos, mostly urban poor, and drawn international condemnation.