“It is clear that the government is manipulating the law to muzzle and intimidate one of its most credible media critics,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists after her arrest in March.
“Maria Ressa is a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses. We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines,” Clooney said in a press statement released by London-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers announcing the relationship.
Ressa is the cofounder and editor of online news site Rappler, which has gained prominence for its unflinching coverage of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal war on drugs. She has been indicted multiple times on libel and tax evasion charges that critics have described as designed to silence independent media in the southeast Asian country. She worked for CNN before starting Rappler.
“Legal hassles can take up 90 percent of my time; a day after our May midterm elections, I was arraigned for cyber libel in the morning and appeared for a case of securities fraud in the afternoon,” she wrote.
After being arrested on cyber libel charges in February, she told CNN it was an example of how the law is being “weaponized” against critics of the country’s president. Speaking to CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout, Ressa said the law was “draining … democracy dry.”