The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan submitted an amicus curiae brief in a case against Nobel Peace Prize winning journalist Maria Ressa on June 5. The case against Ms. Ressa relates to a conviction for ‘cyber libel’ which Maris Ressa has appealed to the the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

On 7 July 2022, the Philippines Court of Appeal affirmed the libel conviction of Maria Ressa, Rappler co-founder and CEO, and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr, in relation to an article published on alleged corruption by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the Philippines. The Court also increased the maximum prison sentence by several months, to 6 years, 8 months and 20 days. The Special Rapporteur published a statement condemning the Philippines Court of Appeal decision to uphold the 2020 ‘cyber libel’ conviction.

“The criminalisation of journalists for libel impedes public interest reporting and is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression. Criminal libel law has no place in a democratic country and should be repealed,” Khan said.

“I am also concerned that the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Act is being applied retroactively in this case, as the Rappler article in question was published before this law was enacted. This is yet another example of the relentless attack against Maria Ressa for daring to speak truth to power,” Khan said.

Ressa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for her fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines, faces numerous criminal and other charges related to her work, which are widely seen as reprisals against her reporting.

The full text of the amicus curiae brief submitted by the Special Rapporteur to the Supreme Court of the Philippines may be accessed below.