Philippine court dismisses libel case against journalist Maria Ressa

The case was one of several lawsuits against Rappler chief Maria Ressa and the news site. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (REUTERS) - A Philippine court on Tuesday (June 1) dismissed a cyber libel case against award-winning journalist Maria Ressa, which was one of several lawsuits against her and news site Rappler, which have put President Rodrigo Duterte under tough scrutiny.

A second libel case filed late last year by businessman Wilfredo Keng, who had accused Ressa of sharing screenshots of a 2002 news article linking him to crimes, was withdrawn by the complainant.

Rappler chief Ressa has said the charges against her were ludicrous.

She was convicted in June in an earlier cyber libel case filed by Mr Keng over the same article that Rappler cited in its own story in 2012, a ruling that was widely seen as a blow to media freedom.

Ressa faces up to six years in jail but has appealed the ruling.

She and Rappler are dealing with several other cases, including alleged tax offences and violation of foreign ownership rules in media.

"I'm glad to hear good news. I look forward to seeing the rest of the cases against me and Rappler dropped in the future," Ressa said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Keng's legal counsels did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment and clarification about the complaint withdrawal.

He "decided to redirect his focus towards helping out with the pandemic, instead of being preoccupied with the prosecution of this case", according to a Rappler report, citing a May 25 motion filed by the complainant.

Judge Andres Soriano of the Makati Regional Trial Court, in a written order, said that with the complainant himself seeking dismissal, "the prosecution can no longer prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.