Filipina journalist, writer convicted of cyber libel in blow to free press

Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa, front right, wearing a protective mask, is escorted as she arrives to attend a court hearing at Manila Regional Trial Court, Philippines on Monday June 15, 2020. Ressa's verdict is expected to be announced Monday for a cyber libel case. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

TAIPEI (The Inquirer/ANN) — Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa announced on Monday that Rappler’s Executive Editor and CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. are found guilty of violating Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act specifically for cyber libel.

Ressa and Santos are the first journalists to be found guilty of cyber libel in the Philippines.

The court has meted the penalty of six months to six years imprisonment but Ressa and Santos are likely to remain free after earlier posting bail.

Ressa and Santos were also ordered to indemnify businessman Wilfredo Keng P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages.

The subject of the cyber libel case was a 2012 article written by Santos claiming that Keng lent his sports utility vehicle to then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The same article also cited an intelligence report that said Keng had been under surveillance by the National Security Council for alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Keng filed the cyber libel complaint in 2017 or five years after the article was first posted and three years after it was supposedly re-posted due to typographical error.