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Philippine agents arrest journalist critical of president

AP  |  Manila 

The award-winning of a Philippine online site that has aggressively covered was arrested Wednesday by government agents in a libel case.

Maria Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, was arrested over a libel complaint from a which condemned as "brazenly politically motivated."

said the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint.

Duterte has openly lambasted journalists who write unfavorable stories about him, including his anti-drug campaign that has left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead.

Rappler Inc, the site which Ressa heads, said agents served the warrant late Wednesday afternoon, making it difficult for Ressa to apply for bail, and escorted her from the Rappler office to

"We are not intimidated. No amount of legal cases, black propaganda, and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line," Ressa said in a statement.

"These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail." Ressa and a former Rappler researcher, Reynaldo Santos Jr, were indicted recently, the said.

Rappler said the filed the libel complaint five years after the article appeared in 2012, and the law under which Ressa was charged by the government, the Cybercrime Prevention Act, did not go into effect until months after the article's publication.

The article included allegations that the was linked to illegal drugs and human trafficking, and that a car registered in his name had been used by the country's

said Ressa's arrest was based on a "trumped up libel charge." "This is brazenly politically motivated, and consistent with the authorities' threats and repeated targeting of Ressa and her team," it said.

said the arrest was "merely part of any criminal procedure." Duterte's said the charge against Ressa was based on facts which she should simply answer and had "nothing to do" with press freedom.

Rappler is one of several agencies deemed critical of Duterte's policies.

Duterte had already banned a Rappler from his news briefings after the government's corporate watchdog found that the violated a constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media when it received money from an international investment firm. Rappler, founded in 2012, rejected the ruling.

Ressa has also posted bail on tax evasion charges which she denies and says were politically motivated.

The International Press Institute, a global network of media personnel, strongly condemned Ressa's detention.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 13 2019. 20:55 IST