Maria Ressa faces another cyber libel suit by same businessman over 2019 tweet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 19) — Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has been sued again for cyber libel, this time over a 2019 Twitter post where she shared another news website's article on businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Keng is the same businessman behind the cyber libel suit that convicted Ressa and former Rappler staffer Reynaldo Santos Jr. on June 15.

Keng filed the second complaint against Ressa at the Makati City Prosecutor's Office on February 13, a copy of which was released to the media on Friday.

It centers on Ressa's tweet a year ago, which read: "Here’s the 2002 article on the “private businessman” who filed the cyber libel case, which was thrown out by the NBI then revived by the DOJ. #HoldTheLine."

It contained screenshots of the article, which identified Keng as the "influential Chinese businessman" being eyed as suspect in the ambush-slay of a former Manila councilor. Keng said he has never been investigated or charged for any criminal activity.

"In publishing the 2002 Philippine Star article in her Twitter account, the respondent has feloniously communicated the malicious imputations against me not only to her 350,000 Twitter followers, but to anyone who has access to the internet," Keng said.

The businessman said he asked Ressa to delete the "offensive Twitter post," noting that the Philippine Star itself has taken down the article, but Ressa refused to do so. He attached to his complaint-affidavit a letter from Ressa where she said Keng's demand interferes with her constitutional right to freedom of expression and press freedom.

"The tweet itself makes reference verbatim to the Philippine Star news item which the Philippine Star has not recanted for being untrue but which it has taken down only due to threat of legal action against it," he added.

On Monday, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 convicted Ressa and Santos, a former researcher-writer at Rappler, in the cyber libel case earlier filed by Keng. The case stemmed from a 2012 investigative article which reported on Keng's alleged connection to illegal activities.

The high-profile case hogged international headlines as opposition groups, human rights advocates, and netizens slammed the decision as part of government's crackdown against media critical of the Duterte administration. Malacañang said the conviction was not politically motivated, stressing that the case was filed by a private complainant.

Ressa and Santos are free on bail pending an appeal of the conviction.