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Maria Ressa, executive editor of news website Rappler, speaks to the media after posting bail in a cyber-libel case at a court in Manila City, Philippines, on February 14, 2019. Philippine authorities issued arrest warrants for Ressa and several other Rappler executives on March 28 in a separate case. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Philippines issues arrest warrants against Rappler's Maria Ressa, other executives

March 28, 2019 8:29 AM ET

Bangkok, March 28, 2019 - Authorities in the Philippines issued today arrest warrants against news website Rappler editors and executives, including executive editor and founder Maria Ressa, for violating laws barring foreign ownership of media, according to news reports.

Rappler executives Maria Ressa, Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, Glenda Gloria, James Bitangca, Felicia Atienza, and James Velasquez were all charged for alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law, which requires all local media to be 100 percent Filipino owned, the reports said.

All of the executives and editors posted bail except for Ressa, who is currently traveling abroad, reports said.

Last month, Ressa was arrested and forced to spend a night in detention before being allowed to post bail in a separate cyber-libel case. The Pasig Regional Trial Court set arraignment for the Anti-Dummy Law case for April 10, the reports said. Rappler has repeatedly denied that foreign investment in the news group confers any rights of ownership, CPJ has reported.

"Philippine officials should stop abusing their authority by issuing arrest warrants against Rappler editor Maria Ressa," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "It is clear that the government is manipulating the law to muzzle and intimidate one of its most credible media critics. This egregious harassment must stop."

In January 2018, the Philippines' Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled that the online news group violated laws barring foreign ownership and control of local media, and moved to revoke its registration, CPJ reported. The ruling was based on accusations that Rappler received funds from the Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar to promote open societies.

In July 2018, the Court of Appeals ruled that the SEC erred in its move to revoke Rappler's certificate of incorporation, which it said should only be done as a "last resort" for non-compliance issues. In August, Rappler filed a motion with the Court of Appeals to partially reconsider the SEC's revocation order; on March 11, 2019, the court upheld its previous ruling, motivating today's arrest warrants, according to reports.

Ressa, a former CNN reporter, last year received CPJ's 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, in acknowledgement of her bravery in reporting in the face of official harassment.

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