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Maria Ressa's arrest spells more trouble for press freedom in Asia



Rappler's reputation

Despite frequent verbal attacks and obstacles raised by the Duterte administration, Rappler is admired for its fearless reporting on the country's deadly war on drugs and scores of other issues with current government, including its treatment of opposition politicians

In the light of its uncompromising record, Ressa's arrest has been widely seen by human rights and journalist activists groups as a warning shot to the press.

"Rappler is a giant here, their body of work is really something "says Carlos Conde, a Human Rights Watch researcher based in Manila.

" Trying to undermine or link Maria Ressa or Rappler is a huge assault on the press in the Philippines, "Conde says.

A message to other journalists

Ressa's arrest sends an absolutely unequivocal message to anyone working in the Philippines, says Peter Greste, a former Al Jazeera journalist who was jailed in Egypt after producing work critical of the government. He is now an academic in his native Australia and founding director of the Alliance for Journalists' Freedom.

"You can not look at this in isolation, think of it in terms of what it means to the entire media in the Philippines ̵

1; If you question the administration, you can expect harassment, intimidation, and arrest. "

 Why Maria Ressa's arrest should unnerve everyone

Conde agrees, and says the message is stark. "The message is:" Do not mess with us. We're determined to make our vision for this country a reality. "

Complicating matters is the culture of violence that Filipino journalists, even before Duterte's rise, have had to face "The Philippines is still one of the countries with the highest rates of journalist killings," Conde says. "You can publish what you want, you just have to deal with the consequences. You die, you get intimidated or you become Maria Ressa."

Press freedom around Asia

The incident has reverberated through the region that is widely seen as becoming more and more illiberal, from China and North Korea, two of the world's least free media for the country, to Thailand and Malaysia, which has been hard pressed over the press in recent years.

"It It seems like it's happening almost everywhere at the same time, it creates new norms and it is very worrying, "says Florence de Changy, Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club president and a French correspondent's newspaper, Le Monde.

 Deported Reuters journalist Wa Lone speaks to journalists after appearing before a trial in Yangon in August 2018.

She says that the region's "rising intolerance for dissenting views" represents a misunderstanding of the press's role in society.

The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, created by the advocacy group Reporters without Borders (RSF), includes Australia, New Zealand and South Korea in its ranking of top 50 nations for press freedom.

Cédric Alviani, RSF's East Asia Bureau Chief, who is also the chairman of the RSF's East Asia Bureau, blames China for setting a bad example. The Asian giant ranks 176th of 180 in the index. "In the past six years, the situation in China has worsened a lot. This comes from the bad example that the Chinese authorities are spreading in Asia."

"The countries that used to be democracies in Asia are copying this example "Thailand, the Philippines, it's very worrying," he says, citing the jail of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar, and a government crackdown on bloggers in Vietnam. The Philippines currently ranks in 133rd place from the 127th place in 2017.

"In Asia more and more you have the idea that media that are critical of the government are anti-patriotic, that they are against people. This is against all we know about democracies, I would say that this is a very worrying situation. "

Chipping away from the media reputation

Rappler's struggles have a knock-on effect, activists say. "If the capacity to hold governments to account (diminishes), everyone is suffering," says Greste. "It's about the public's right to know what their governments are doing in their name. The free press is the best way people have to inform what governments do. Otherwise everything you get is propaganda."

Shawn Crispin, Senior South East Asia Representative at the Committee for Protecting Journalists (CPJ),

What is Rappler, the website targeted by the Philippine Government? ” data-src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-small-169.jpg” data-src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-medium-plus-169.jpg” data-src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-large-169.jpg” data-src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-exlarge-169.jpg” data-src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-super-169.jpg” data-src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-full-169.jpg” data-src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190213080921-01-maria-ressa-0213-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″ src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7″/>

 Ressa speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists & # 39; International Press Freedom Awards in November 2018.

Journalists in the Philippines and throughout the region must continue to play their role to the best of their ability, says de Changy, president of the Hong Kong FCC.

In an echo of Ressa's The famous exhortation to "hold the line" in a speech at the Committee to Protect Journalists awards last year, de Changy says: "Some say we have no choice but to adjust to the red line, but I think we should resist." [19659003]

Trump's influence

US President Donald Trump's invective against the press is far from the minds of the press freedom advocates in Asia.

"The fact that Trump calls journalists and unfavorable reports" fake news "is a blessing For every dictator on earth, you can see that in many countries where strongmen use the same argument, "says RSF's Alviani.

 Asian strongmen follow Trump's lead on fake news
 Students hold the placards as they shout slogans during a protest at the State University grounds in Manila on February 14, 2019, in support of Ressa.
According to CNN affiliate CNN Philippines, in December, Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, in response to a question about Ranada's ban, said at a press briefing that access to the presidential palace was "a privilege".

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