A libel complaint against Maria Ressa was dismissed by a Philippine court on Thursday, one of several cases brought against the journalist who claims she has been targeted because of her news site’s critical coverage on President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a lawyer.
The suffering of Ressa, who was selected Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her efforts to combat media intimidation, has sparked international concern about journalist harassment in the Philippines, which was formerly seen as a regional leader in press freedom.
The cyber-libel case was filed by a college professor against Ressa and a reporter at her site, Rappler, in October over a story which alleged that the professor gave students better grades in exchange for money, an accusation he denied.
Ressa, a dual U.S.-Filipino citizen, and Rappler face several other legal cases, including alleged tax offences and violation of foreign ownership rules in media.
Theodore Te, Ressa’s lawyer, said on Thursday the court dismissed the cyber-libel case on Tuesday after the professor said he was no longer interested in pursuing it.
It is the second cyber-libel case against Ressa to be thrown out by a court after the complainant withdrew.
In June of last year, Ressa was found guilty in a cyber libel case brought by businessman Wilfredo Keng after a 2012 post linking a businessman to illicit activity. Ressa faces up to six years in prison, but she has filed an appeal.
“It’s a short reprieve, but the harassment and intimidation against me and Rappler continues,” Ressa said after the case was dismissed in a statement.
“These ludicrous cases serve as a reminder to us all of the value of independent journalism in holding authority accountable.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has repeatedly said Duterte supports freedom of speech even as the leader has publicly lashed out at Rappler, calling it a “fake news outlet” sponsored by American spies.