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Philippines court convicts top journalist — what comes next?

Over a year ago, we reported on Maria Ressa's conviction for cyber-libel in the Philippines. While her appeal works its way through the country's byzantine justice system, today she won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Below is our original piece published on June 15, 2020.

Ever since the rough-spoken populist Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines in 2016, journalists have warned that his open disdain for the media would put press freedom in the country at risk.

On Monday, those fears were underscored when the authorities found Maria Ressa, an internationally-renowned journalist and fierce critic of Duterte's, guilty of libel under the country's cybercrimes law.

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Maria Ressa: Fearless and fair

The last time I saw my former boss Maria Ressa, about three years ago in New York, she wasn't worried about being arrested upon her return to the Philippines. Her friends and family had told her to consider staying in America, as she's a dual citizen after growing up in New Jersey. But she thought it was her duty to go back to Manila and continue doing her job as CEO of independent news site Rappler.

She wasn't arrested that time for her role in Rappler updating an old article deemed by a judge to be retroactively libelous. But she was detained in February 2019 over the same charge, and again a month later for allegedly violating a ban on foreign ownership of the media. Maria got out on bail both times, but that wasn't the end of her legal troubles.

In June 2020, she was convicted of cyber-libel, and now faces up to 100 years in prison under a very loose and retroactive interpretation of the law that's been panned as an attack on press freedom.

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What We’re Watching: Polish coalition on the ropes, Ethiopian PM’s call to arms, Russian mercs in Libya

Polish government in trouble: Poland's rightwing coalition government is on the ropes after PM Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, for opposing two key pieces of legislation: a raft of tax reforms that Morawiecki says will help the middle class but Gowin fears will actually hurt them, as well as a proposed new law restricting foreign media ownership, which critics say is meant to silence unfriendly reporting by a US-owned TV network. Without the support of Gowin's small center-right Agreement party, the coalition government — formed by the ruling PiS and the far-right United Poland — could lose its slim majority in parliament, which in turn would force Morawiecki to call an early election. If he does so, he'll face a tough rival in a familiar face for Poles: former PM and European Commission top honcho Donald Tusk, who wants to run for his old job.

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The Graphic Truth: Press freedom in pandemic times

During a pandemic, the work of reporters around the world is particularly important to ensure transparency about the scope of outbreaks and the measures that governments are taking to contain them. But in many countries, press freedom has been declining since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Press freedom took a bit hit over the past year, as governments across the world doubled down on censoring media that criticized their handling of the pandemic, and locked up reporters for reporting the facts. Reporters Without Borders this week published its annual World Press Freedom Index, which takes a microscope to every country, ranking the ability of its media to report freely and independently. Here's a look at how countries' scores have changed over the past year.

China's repression and growing global influence; US stimulus, and Trump vs. Murdoch

Watch: Ian Bremmer with your last Quick Take of 2020. 2021, just around the corner. We know it's going to be better. I mean, not immediately. It's going to take some time. We're still in the teeth of this crisis. But 2021 feels like many of us are going to emerge from crisis. And that is a positive thing. The idea of going to work every day, sending your kids to school, just being normal, being a little bit more normal, something that I wish for all of us as soon as humanly possible.

Back to the news of the day: I was so disturbed to see this citizen journalist get four years in prison in China for reporting on what the Chinese government was doing in Wuhan in terms of the scale of the pandemic, the crackdown and the rest. She's been on hunger strike for some time. The sentencing came down just a few hours ago. All of three hours in the courts, such as they are. We know no rule of law, no independent judiciary in China. And don't you dare go after the official narrative. That is frowned upon to say the least.

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Australia police drop journalist probe over Afghan troops story

October 15, 2020 2:12 PM

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian authorities on Thursday (Oct 15) dropped an investigation into a journalist accused of receiving classified information to produce a report on alleged troop misconduct in Afghanistan, the second media probe dismissed amid concerns over press freedom.

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai's arrest sends warning to Hong Kong's free press

August 11, 2020 9:36 AM

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Right before China retook control of Hong Kong in 1997, tycoon Jimmy Lai started Apple Daily in part to promote democracy in the city. For 25 years the newspaper survived advertising boycotts and political pressure but never backed off its tough coverage of the Chinese government and pro-Beijing lawmakers.

Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under new security law

August 11, 2020 5:00 AM

HONG KONG • Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai yesterday became the highest-profile person in the Chinese-ruled city to be arrested under a new national security law, detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as 200 police searched the offices of his Apple Daily newspaper.

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