Maria Ressa, journalist and Duterte critic, arrested in Philippines

Maria Ressa poses at Rappler's office in Pasig City Metro Manila in Philippines

Philippine agents arrest journalist critical of president

Ressa, the head of a news site in the Philippines, was arrested on Wednesday in Manila.

The arrest of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa on Wednesday appears to be an action of "a bully government", according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Ressa, 55, is a former CNN bureau chief. She was among four journalists, including the murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, named by Time magazineas Person of the Year for 2018.

Arrest warrant being served right now vs Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. An officer part of the serving party prohibits Rappler employees from taking photos and videos inside the office. "We're going to just hold the line, we'll keep going".

Ressa and her publication continued to cover Philippine politics, however, often shining light of incidents of shooting deaths involving individuals, many of them politicians, accused of ties to the drug trade.

"The Philippine government's legal harassment of Rappler and Maria Ressa has now reached a critical and alarming juncture", Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

The charge traces back to a story published in May 2012, months before the country's cyber crime prevention law was approved in September.

The charges were filed by the Philippine Department of Justice over a May 2012 story about businessman Wilfredo Keng and his alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. He said that because Rappler updated its article in 2014, it fell into the purview of the law.

The arrest warrant was issued Tuesday, February 12, by Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.

Ressa's arrest does not indicate suppression of the press, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told local media. In addition to the "cyber libel" case, Ressa and Rappler are facing five charges of tax violations and posted bail twice on those charges in December.

Amid a crackdown on media, the president has repeatedly targeted Rappler, accusing the outlet of producing "fake news".

Staff have also described professional hurdles and threats. Reporter Pia Ranada was harassed and banned from covering the president's palace.

Ressa underwent medical procedure following the development and will remain under NBI custody, with her lawyers, Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria, and Rappler Production Head Beth Frondoso.

Ressa rose to global prominence in December 2018, appearing on an alternative cover of Time's Person of the Year edition.

"We are not intimidated".

Amnesty International Philippines said Ressa's arrest was based on a "trumped up libel charge". "This government, led by a man who has proven averse to criticism and dissent, now proves it will go to ridiculous lengths to forcibly silence a critical media and stifle free expression and thought".

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