International lawyer Amal Clooney is to spearhead a team of global law experts providing assistance to Philippines journalist Maria Ressa, a London-based law firm has announced. In a statementfrom the frim Doughty Street Chambers, Clooney called Ressa “a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses.”
Ressa is an award-winning journalist and the founder and CEO of Rappler, a media company launched in Manila in 2012 that uses social media as a central platform for distributing its work.
Rappler and Ressa got into hot water with the Philippines’ hardline President Rodrigo Duterte, simply for reporting truthfully on his brutal crackdown on drug users and traffickers, which has left thousands dead.
She came under attack online, often by social media accounts linked to Duterte supporters. Rumors and false information about Ressa, in particular, began to spread, and often the accusations were repeated by either Duterte himself or a government-friendly newspaper such as the Manila Times.
Ressa is now facing 11 criminal charges, and may be on the verge of going to jail.
Clooney, along with associates Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Kathrine O’Byrne, are to “act with a team of international lawyers as counsel to” Ressa, according to the statement published on Monday by Doughty Street Chambers.
Clooney has backed a number of high-profile causes, from refugees in the U.S. to students demanding gun law reforms. But Ressa is not facing charges anywhere but her native country, and it remained unclear how much practical help Clooney and her team can provide the journalist as she battles the charges in Philippine courts.
“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 the statement released by the law firm. They were to work in conjunction with another international law team in Washington D.C., including Daniel Feldman, a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
Doughty Street Chambers said Clooney’s team would “coordinate as necessary with domestic counsel in Manila.”
In the statement relayed by the firm, Ressa said she was being “targeted and attacked simply for being an independent journalist,” and added that she was “delighted” that Clooney and her team would be representing her, “at the international level to challenge the violations of my rights and those of the media organization I represent.” (Rappler, CBC, MT)