maria ressa cnni 021419
PHOTO: CNN
maria ressa cnni 021419
Now playing
02:24
Maria Ressa: I feel like my rights have been violated
Pope Francis meets with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq's Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.
PHOTO: Vatican Media/AP
Pope Francis meets with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq's Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.
Now playing
01:42
Pope Francis holds historic meeting with revered Shia cleric
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:30
Behind the scenes as Pope makes historic trip to Iraq
dr sasa
PHOTO: CNN
dr sasa
Now playing
01:32
Myanmar envoy to UN: It seems like they have a license to kill
meghan markle oprah entrevista harry esposa acusa familia real acoso mentiras inhs lkl max foster_00002717.png
PHOTO: cbs
meghan markle oprah entrevista harry esposa acusa familia real acoso mentiras inhs lkl max foster_00002717.png
Now playing
03:33
CBS releases another teaser for Meghan and Harry's Oprah interview
Now playing
03:49
He feared for his life in Nicaragua. Under Biden's new policy, he's safe in the US
screenshot myanmar funeral on streets
PHOTO: Reuters
screenshot myanmar funeral on streets
Now playing
02:26
Shocking images emerge from Myanmar as military cracks down
Screengrab of Our lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, Iraq from Ben Wedeman's pkg
PHOTO: CNN
Screengrab of Our lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, Iraq from Ben Wedeman's pkg
Now playing
03:04
CNN revisits church where massacre occurred ahead of Pope's visit
screengrab Japan oldest woman Olympics torchbearer Kane Tanaka
PHOTO: Source: Kane Tanaka
screengrab Japan oldest woman Olympics torchbearer Kane Tanaka
Now playing
02:43
This 118-year-old woman is set to break Olympic record
Sergey Aleksashenko
PHOTO: CNN
Sergey Aleksashenko
Now playing
01:15
Navalny ally: Of course I'm scared but I cannot hide myself
A split of a Muslim religious leader and the Archbishop of Westminster being interviewed by CNN's Becky Anderson.
PHOTO: CNN
A split of a Muslim religious leader and the Archbishop of Westminster being interviewed by CNN's Becky Anderson.
Now playing
02:14
Pope's Iraq visit is risky. 2 religious leaders explain why it's key
Middle east Iraq Christians pope francis Wedeman pkg intl hnk vpx_00000823.png
Middle east Iraq Christians pope francis Wedeman pkg intl hnk vpx_00000823.png
Now playing
03:44
What's behind the mass exodus of Christians from Iraq?
Screengrab for Paula Hancocks live segment on Myanmar
PHOTO: Twitter
Screengrab for Paula Hancocks live segment on Myanmar
Now playing
03:13
Video shows dramatic escalation of violence in Myanmar
Now playing
03:24
Author describes what happened when ISIS underestimated women fighters
FILE- In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Wednesday, March 3, 2021 that she has launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the probe will be conducted "independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor."(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
PHOTO: Peter Dejong/AP
FILE- In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Wednesday, March 3, 2021 that she has launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the probe will be conducted "independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor."(AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
Now playing
01:57
ICC to investigate alleged war crimes by Israel and Hamas
Attorney-General Christian Porter speaks during a media conference on March 03, 2021 in Perth, Australia. Attorney-General Christian Porter has publicly confirmed he is the cabinet minister named in a historical rape allegation from 1988 which came to light in the last week and has emphatically denied the allegations.
PHOTO: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Attorney-General Christian Porter speaks during a media conference on March 03, 2021 in Perth, Australia. Attorney-General Christian Porter has publicly confirmed he is the cabinet minister named in a historical rape allegation from 1988 which came to light in the last week and has emphatically denied the allegations.
Now playing
02:25
Australian Attorney General denies historical rape allegation
(CNN) —  

Award-winning Philippines journalist Maria Ressa has told CNN that her arrest on “cyber libel” charges is an example of how the law is being “weaponized” against critics of the country’s President.

Ressa was released on bail Thursday after her lawyer paid the 100,000 Philippines peso bail ($1,915) fee after she spent the night in detention.

Speaking to CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout, Ressa said the law was “draining … democracy dry.”

“The only thing I can think of is that the government wants me to feel its power,” she said, adding that she felt her rights had been violated.

The co-founder and editor of online news outlet Rappler – which has gained prominence for its unflinching coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal war on drugs – was arrested Wednesday at the Manila newsroom shortly after 5pm.

Journalist Maria Ressa leaves her Manila office after she was arrested on February 13, 2019.
PHOTO: MARIA TAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Journalist Maria Ressa leaves her Manila office after she was arrested on February 13, 2019.

Ressa was charged with a lawsuit relating to a story written in 2012, which alleged that businessman Wilfredo Keng had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. However, the article was published by Rappler two years before the new cyber libel laws came into effect in the Philippines.

“Constitutionally you can’t have a law go retroactively,” said Ressa, a 2018 Time Person of the year.

“I’m being set up as an example so that others will stop asking tough questions and I think that puts responsibility on me to continue asking tough questions.

“I’m not a critic, I’m a journalist. I’m doing my job holding the government to account.”

On her release, Ressa – who was already out on bail following tax evasion charges filed against her last November – made an impassioned speech about freedom of the press, calling her case an “abuse of power.”

“The message that the government is sending is very clear: Be silent or you’re next,” said Ressa. “So I’m saying, and I’m appealing to you, not to be silent.

“Press freedom is not just about journalists, right? It’s not just about us, it’s not just about me, it’s not just about Rappler. Press freedom is … the foundation of every single right of every single Filipino to the truth, so that we can hold the powerful to account.”

Rappler’s reporting makes site a target

The National Bureau of Investigation ruled in January that because the report preceded the law, Ressa could not be charged. But that judgment was later overturned by the Department of Justice on the grounds the article was updated in February 2014.

JJ Disini, one of Ressa’s lawyers, called the charges “politically motivated” and said that any updates made to the offending article in 2014 were “merely a punctuation change.”

“If the libel had been committed way back in 2012, a change in punctuation couldn’t have republished that libel,” Disini added.

Rappler’s extensive reporting on the Philippines under President Duterte has made the site – and its journalists – targets of his supporters.

Ressa has been indicted multiple times on libel and tax evasion charges that critics have described as politically motivated and designed to silence independent media in the Southeast Asian country.

Anger from journalism groups

Media advocates have criticized Ressa’s arrest, arguing that the time gap between the article’s purported alteration and her arrest indicated a political element.

“You have to wonder why is it that the person that is named in that article waited five years to file any charges,” said Steven Butler, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Initially, the Philippine government decided they were not going to press charges, and then they changed their mind. The whole thing just frankly smells. It just looks like a political hack job to intimidate the press.”

03:45 - Source: CNN
Philippine government threatening Rappler

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the arrest was “clearly a desperate move of the government to suppress the media” and dissent from the government.

Antonio Trillanes, a Philippines senator and Duterte critic who has also been arrested by the administration’s Department of Justice, tweeted a short statement in support of Ressa.

“This move unmasks his despotic regime and his fear of accountability,” the post read. “We must unite and stand for press freedom in these trying times, as Duterte systematically destroys our democracy.”

The legal case against Ressa comes at a time when press freedoms are being challenged in the Philippines and around the world.

In 2018, Ressa was named among a group of journalists crowned Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Others in the group included Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributor killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October, and Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists arrested a year ago in Myanmar while investigating the mass killings of Rohingya Muslims.

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Karen Smith contributed to this report.