This is how democracy dies.

The Philippine Center of the International PEN expresses its gravest concern over the recent conviction of journalists Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. of cyber libel for a 2012 article, written and published before the cybercrime law even came into being. This is a conviction of an independent and vigilant press that holds our leaders accountable to the Filipino people they have sworn to serve when they took their oath on the Constitution.

During these critical times, it is urgent that a free and critical press is able to speak to power to ensure efficient and inclusive delivery of the badly needed health, economic and social services that all Filipinos deserve.

The verdict further undermines the already diminishing democratic space for free media and civil society. This action cannot be seen as separate from the pattern of threats and intimidation escalating since 2016, against Ms. Ressa, as CEO of Rappler Inc., and other media entities, for reportage that present government leaders have found objectionable.

The Philippine PEN, in solidarity with PEN International, stands by the principles of free expression and unhampered flow of critical information. We ask all citizens to uphold their right to free speech and equal protection under the Law. We ask Filipinos to stand up to all governments to protect these rights at all times.