Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Filipina journalist Lady Ann Salem, who should have been freed ten days ago when a regional court in the Manila suburb of Mandaluyong dismissed a firearms case against her. RSF also urges the Philippine authorities to stop using terrorism legislation for political ends.
At a hearing on 5 February, the court dismissed the case against Lady Ann Salem after ruling that the search warrant used by police to raid her Mandaluyong apartment on 10 December was “null and void’’ and that the evidence they claimed to have found there, firearms and explosives, was inadmissible.
But the release of this journalist, who is the editor of the Manila Today news website and co-founder of the Altermidya network of independent alternative media, has been blocked by the prosecution on the spurious grounds that the court’s decision “is not yet final.”
“This could be a cue for the authorities to resort to the insidious tactic of bringing a much more serious charge against our editor under the anti-terrorism law,” a member of the Manila Today staff told RSF, referring to a draconian law that took effect in July 2020, under which journalists can be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison if convicted of inciting terrorism.
“After declaring the evidence to be inadmissible because of police manipulation, the court determined that Lady Ann Salem had no case to answer, which was tantamount to acquittal,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The prosecution has no legal grounds for opposing the judge’s decision and we therefore demand this journalist’s immediate release. We also caution the Philippine authorities against thought of using the anti-terrorism law to persecute reporters.”
RSF also reiterates its call for the immediate release of Frenchie Mae Cumpio, the editor of the Eastern Vista news website (a member of the Altermidya network), who has been held on a similar charge of illegal possession of firearms since 7 February 2020, when the police claimed to have found firearms during a search of her home in the eastern city of Tacloban.