The Design 4 Democracy Coalition Advisory Board stands in solidarity with our fellow member Maria Ressa and with Rappler, the leading independent online news outlet in the Philippines. Ressa and Rappler Holdings were formally indicted on November 29, 2018, on charges of tax evasion—the latest action by the Philippine government in attempting to thwart the work of Rappler’s journalists—and Ressa turned herself into authorities and posted bail this week.
The mission of the D4D Coalition is to ensure that information technology and social media play a proactive role in supporting democracy and human rights globally. Ressa and Rappler have been on the front lines of investigative reporting in the Philippines, including ground-breaking reporting on the use of trolls and social media bots to distort the truth and disseminate false news. Individuals and organizations working on these issues face an increasing risk of reprisal around the world.
Last year, Rappler itself reported that the Philippines was the ‘deadliest country’ in Asia for journalists in 2017. Issuing unwarranted criminal charges is a common tactic globally for silencing unwanted voices and further endangers journalists protecting civil and political rights in the Philippines. Instead of facing silencing and intimidation, professionals and experts like Ressa and Rappler should be valued as crucial for upholding human rights and strengthening peaceful and democratic societies.
We denounce the recent efforts of the Philippine government to silence Ressa and fellow journalists working to protect independent media.