Philippine court dismisses libel case vs journalist Ressa

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa appears in court for third cyber libel case
Filipino journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrives at a Manila Regional Trial Court for cyber libel charges in Manila, Philippines, March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

MANILA, June 1 (Reuters) - A Philippine court on Tuesday 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Wilfredo Keng, who had accused Ressa of sharing screenshots of a 2002 news article linking him to crimes, was withdrawn by the complainant.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 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.

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

Keng "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".

Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty

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