MANILA : Case against top journalist is denounced as an attack on ''freedom of the press.''

Maria Ressa has been accused of fraud, tax evasion and receiving money from the Central Intelligence Agency. She's been arrested twice and posted bail eight times.

She is also the Philippine's most prominent journalist, a Fulbright scholar, a Time magazine Person of the Year for her crusading work against disinformation and a constant thorn in the side of Rodrigo Duterte, her country's authoritarian but popular president.

Last Monday, after years of government threats and accusations, Ms. Ressa and a former colleague at the news site she founded, Rappler, were both convicted of cyberlibel by a court in Manila. They could be sentenced up to eight years in prison; each was fined $8,000.

The verdict is a new setback for Press freedom in a country where journalists have been bullied and threatened. If President Trump calls American reporters ''the enemy of the people,'' President Duterte, goes a step further calling them ''sons of bitches'' who are not exempt from assassination.''

The verdict in the trial, which lasted almost a year, was delivered last Monday by a judge in a nearly empty courtroom. Just three reporters were present because of social-distancing rules intended to contain the coronavirus.

Speaking to a crowd of dozens of reporters and photographers outside the courtroom, Ms. Ressa said her conviction should serve as a warning.

''We're redefining what the new world is going to look like, what journalism is going to become,'' Ms. Reesa said. ''Are we going to lose freedom of the press?''

Prosecutors first filed libel charges against Ms. Reesa in 2017 after a businessman disputed an article that he said inaccurately linked him to a top-level judge and tied him to the drug world.

Rappler reported that Wilfredo Keng, the businessman, had lent a sport utility vehicle to Judge Renato Corona and cited sources who claimed Mr. Keng was tied to illegal drugs, human trafficking and murder.

Ms. Reesa faces another seven charges, including accusations of tax evasion. She has denied all of the charges and has said the prosecutions are an attempt by Mr. Duterte's administration to defang Rappler and debilitate the country's critical news media.

Rappler and other news organizations have doggedly covered Mr. Duterte's war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead and disappeared. The campaign has drawn international rebuke for its brutality.

Mr. Duterte's attacks have caught the attention of press freedom groups and human rights lawyers, including the celebrity lawyer Amal Clonney.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on Press, Freedom and the World, continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Jason Gutierrez and Alexandra Stevenson.


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