Maria Ressa, a high-profile Philippine journalist and vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested – once again – after being detained at Manila airport Friday.
Ressa, a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018, told CNN she was taken into custody shortly after stepping off a plane from San Francisco.
The CEO of upstart media company Rappler was later charged with violating the anti-dummy law, legislation related to securities fraud.
She posted bail Friday afternoon, the seventh time that the beleaguered, award-winning journalist has been forced to do so in recent months. She had to post bail twice Friday – once in the sum of 90,000 Philippine pesos ($1,709) and a further 128,000 Philippine pesos ($2,430) in bail for charges brought at another court.
Rights groups have long alleged that Ressa is being targeted by the authorities as part of a campaign to silence and intimidate Rappler, which has reported extensively on Duterte’s war on drugs that has killed thousands.
Ressa’s arrest follows that of Rappler’s managing editor and five other former and current board members earlier this week, according to the online Filipino news site. Ressa told CNN before boarding the flight back to Manila that her lawyers were expecting her to be taken into custody upon arrival.
Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for over three decades and was a former CNN bureau chief before starting Rappler.
Time Magazine included her among its selection for the 2018 Person of the Year award, which honored journalists who have been targeted for their work.
Ressa told CNN Friday morning that the arrest of her board members represented a worrying escalation in the government’s attacks on her company.
“I’m very worried about our directors. These are upstanding, successful members of the business community, the tech industry,” she said.
“It’s insane, it has ripples not (only) in terms of press freedom, but business,” she said. “I’ve overused the word ‘ludicrous’ (in describing previous legal procedures). It’s sad to see my nation like this – it’s an abuse of power and a weaponization of the law.”
Ressa said she saw the continuing charges against her and arrests as both an attempt to cow her and Rappler’s journalistic spirit and an attempt to bankrupt the company.
“And both will fail. And every step the government takes that shows this blatant abuse of power shows a transformation of our democracy. Let’s move away from the press freedom issue – I’m a citizen of this country and my rights are being trampled,” she said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) accused Philippine officials of “abusing their authority by issuing arrest warrants against Rappler editor Maria Ressa.”
“It is clear that the government is manipulating the law to muzzle and intimidate one of its most credible media critics. This egregious harassment must stop,” CPJ said in a statement.
The arrest is just the latest in a string of charges leveled against Ressa and Rappler.
She was last arrested last month by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation on so-called “cyber-libel” charges, and was forced to spend a night in custody after a bail hearing could not be arranged in time.