DFRLab statement on Maria Ressa

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab stands with Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr.

June 15, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) — Philippine journalist and Rappler founder Maria Ressa was found guilty of a “cyber libel,” a sentence that could carry up to six years in prison. Former Rappler employee Reynaldo Santos Jr. was also found guilty.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab stands with Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr.

DFRLab stands for transparency and accountability in the face of online harms and facts as a foundation in free and open societies.

Rappler is an independent media outlet known for its digital native approach in one of the most online regions in the world. Its stalwart investigative journalism covered extrajudicial violence and the war on drugs under President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. This case is the latest in a series of legal efforts, ranging from charges of tax evasion to new forms of libel, to curb independent media in the Philippines. Since President Duterte was elected to office in 2016, he has attacked the independent press with a sophisticated online apparatus, the use of the term “fake news,” and calls for violent acts against journalists.

During the Digital Forensic Research Lab’s 360/OS event in June 2018, Ressa described The Philippines as “patient zero in the fight [over] fake news.” Ms. Ressa also spoke at the Atlantic Council Stratcom DC event, where she described her case: “I have lived according to the standards and ethics of journalism, and now I could be arrested.”

“Maria is a friend, colleague, mentor, and an icon, and she has prepared for this day by consistently reminding us that an attack on one is an attack on all,” said DFRLab Director Graham Brookie. “This decision is a blow to free and open societies everywhere, and we’ve got to hold the line.”

Independent journalists play an essential role in protecting democratic values and institutions worldwide. DFRLab will continue to work with allies and partners to shape a better global future and stand for the free flow of facts. We stand with Ms. Ressa, Mr. Santos, and Rappler.

Please join DFRLab in amplifying the message online using #DefendPressFreedom, #HoldTheLine, and #CourageON.


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