Duterte's Media Critic Freed on Bail After Detention in Manila

(Bloomberg) -- Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, head of online media company Rappler Inc. that’s been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte, was released on bail about noon on Thursday after an overnight detention for a libel case.

A Manila court ordered Ressa’s release after she posted a 100,000-peso ($1,916) bail, Rappler reported. State investigators held Ressa after a night court refused to accept bail and grant her temporary freedom citing lack of jurisdiction on the case. The journalist was arrested in her office at past 5 p.m. local time when day courts were closed.

“We will not duck. We will not hide. We will hold the line,” Ressa said via Facebook live stream after her release.

The Department of Justice last week indicted Ressa and a former reporter of Rappler for cyber libel, acting on a complaint filed by a businessman over an article published in 2012, months before the cyber-crime law was passed. An April 2018 Rappler story, citing Ressa, said the allegations were unfounded.

The Philippine journalist’s arrest drew condemnation from local and international media watchdogs and human rights groups. New York-based civil society group Committee to Protect Journalists called on Duterte’s government “to cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler.”

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said Ressa’s arrest is not about freedom of the press, but about a possible violation she committed. “No one is above the law, not even high profile, self-anointed crusading journalists,” he said.

Ressa, one of the journalists picked as Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2018, avoided arrest in December after posting bail for tax evasion cases.

Rappler, which Duterte once branded as a “fake news outlet,” is also currently appealing last year’s order from the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission to shut its operations for allegedly violating foreign-equity restrictions in mass media.

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