At the front line of absurdity, again, with Borat and Kafka’s ...

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At the front line of absurdity, again, with Borat and Kafka’s love child

Filipino journalist Maria Ressa’s conviction last week is yet another blow for press freedom

Bambina Olivares

When my mother was arrested in August 2003 on 193 counts of libel filed by a prominent lawyer associated with the regime of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a senate committee was immediately called to investigate political persecution and abuse of power. My mother, Ninez Cacho-Olivares, was, at the time, the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Filipino newspaper, The Daily Tribune, which was highly critical of the Arroyo government.

She was able to post a not insubstantial amount of bail on the day of her arrest, which involved her going to several different police stations, as she had been slapped with 36 arrest warrants. There were other politically motivated libel suits after that, including one from a warlord-like former governor, in addition to sedition charges. My mother, however, never spent a night in jail, and despite a conviction for libel in 2008, all her cases were eventually dismissed.

Last week, another Filipino journalist, Maria Ressa, was found guilty of cyber-libel for an article that mentioned the allegedly suspect dealings of Chinese-Filipino businessman Wilfredo Keng, posted on her influential online news platform, Rappler, in 2012, four months before a cyber crime law was passed. In effect, Ressa, with her former writer, Rey Santos jnr, was retroactively convicted of a crime that wasn’t even on the books when it was allegedly committed. ..

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