Court denies Maria Ressa’s motion for reconsideration on cyber libel conviction

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 25) — The motion for reconsideration filed by Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa and former writer-researcher Rey Santos Jr. on their cyber libel conviction has been denied.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Manila has denied the 132-page motion Saturday for lack of merit after the two journalists were convicted for cyber libel on June 15.

In the motion, Ressa and Santos cited 13 errors committed by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa in her verdict, including defining updating a story as republication, and the consideration of complainant Wilfredo Keng as a private citizen.

READ: Maria Ressa, ex-Rappler writer appeal cyber libel conviction before Manila court

However, the court stressed that “discussion has been exhaustively made and no new matters were raised” regarding the issues on republication, the liability and non-representation of the accused, and the damages suffered by “private complainant Wilfredo Keng.”

It also stood by its ruling, saying that Keng is a private citizen.

“It is notable that both accused are raising the public figure defense for the first time During trial, no evidence was adduced by the defense to show that the status of Keng falls within the definition of a public figure,” the court said.

Human rights groups and netizens have slammed Ressa and Reyes’ conviction, saying that it is a blatant attack on press freedom. Recently, media giant ABS-CBN has been denied a fresh 25-year franchise by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.

In April, the Philippines has fallen two places in the World Press Freedom Index, placing 136th among 180 nations. The Reporters without Borders noted that in the report, the country has “state troll armies that use weapon of disinformation on social media.”

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.