In April 2019 a special BOLD Award was made to Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor at RAPPLER. RAPPLER is a social news network that crowdsources stories to inspire investigative journalism, community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change in Indonesia and the Philippines. She now faces up to six years in a Philippine prison after a questionable conviction on a charge of cyber libel.
In 2017, President Duterte slammed Rappler in his State of the Nation Address. Around three months later in October 2017, businessman Wilfredo Keng filed a libel complaint over a Rappler article that had been published in 2012. Although the article had been published before cyber libel became a crime in the Philippines, a subsequent correction of a spelling mistake was enough for a court to declare it had been re-published.
Media outlets around the world have joined the outcry against her conviction in a case that is now seen as a test of media freedom in Duterte’s Philippines, including the New York Times, South China Morning Post and the UK’s BBC. Hillary Clinton tweeted, “We must fiercely protest attacks on the press. They are attacks on democracy.”
Facebook is investigating a sharp increase in the number of phantom accounts in the names of Filipino journalists and campaigners against the new law. It has sparked concerns that the government could, in a further crackdown on media freedom, use the accounts as evidence to arrest people on charges of faked material.