Duterte’s critic released on bail after arrest at airport

The chief executive officer and editor of Rappler news website Maria Ressa, above, was freed on bail by a regional court in the Philippines on Friday after posting a $1,710 fee.

Earlier in the day, she was arrested for alleged violation of a law against foreign ownership of media properties after arriving at Manila airport from the US.

Other Rappler executives are facing similar charges.

Last year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) complained that Rappler violated the Anti-Dummy Law by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign corporation Omidyar Network Fund.

A PDR is a security which grants the holder the right to the delivery of sale of the underlying share. However, it is not an evidence, statement or certificate of ownership of a corporation.

The Anti-Dummy Law bans foreigners from participating in the operation of a media company which should have 100% Filipino control.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission had revoked Rappler’s licence to operate for allegedly violating the constitutional ban on foreign ownership. 

Advocates of free press allege Ressa and her team are being targeted for their work. The news site had carried several articles criticising President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

Moments before her arrest, Ressa said she was treated like a criminal for being an independent journalist.

Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch told media that the case against Ressa shows the Duterte administration’s intention to silence its critics.

Ressa’s legal counsel Francis Lim said such acts of harassment will not deter her and others from doing their duty as journalists.

The government has consistently denied charges that Ressa and Rappler are being targeted, saying the law is being applied evenly and fairly.