(Eagle News)–The National Press Club on Friday, Feb. 15, expressed dismay over the manner in which Rappler’s executive editor Maria Ressa was arrested, but clarified the arrest itself was not a form of “political harassment.”
In a statement, the NPC said that while the way in which Ressa was arrested “smacks of bad taste” as it was reportedly done near the end of office hours “thus affording Ms. Ressa little or no time at all to post the necessary bail and thus ensuring that she should spend the night in jail,” a “libel case is a legal remedy available to everyone and should not be politicized.”
According to the NPC, “to inject something that is not there and thus politicize a strictly judicial process” between two private parties “does not and will not serve the end of justice.”
Ressa’s case, the NPC said, may be a “great ‘inconvenience,’” but “not something that should relegate someone to the altar of press freedom for ‘martyrdom.’”
“Transforming this incident into a political circus in pursuit of vested political and ideological interests is to encourage everyone’s disrespect for the law and with it, to increase the risk of greater violence against the media,” the NPC said.
The NPC’s position differs from those of other press groups.
Among those that have denounced Ressa’s arrest as harassment on the part of the government were the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
The Palace, however, scoffed at claims the government was behind Ressa’s arrest and was thus abusing its power, saying it was Ressa herself who was “abusing her power as a journalist.”
The Palace noted that the cyber libel charges against Rappler, former reporter Reynaldo Santos and Ressa, which became the basis for the issuance of warrants of arrest against the two, were filed by a private complainant, businessman Wilfredo Keng.
“We are a country of laws and every citizen must adhere to the rule of law. No one is above the law, not even high-profile self-anointed crusading journalists,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.