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An award-winning journalist who is an outspoken critic of the Philippine president has been arrested on “cyber libel” charges.

Maria Ressa, who was named as a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018, was arrested as part of a series of legal cases against perceived adversaries of the government.

Ms Ressa, chief executive of news outlet Rappler, is accused of “cyber libel” over a 2012 article which linked a businessman to murder and trafficking humans and drugs.

The article cited information from an intelligence report from an unspecified agency. The businessman denies any wrongdoing.

Maria Ressla at the National Bureau of Investigation in January 2018 when a defamation complaint was made
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Maria Ressla at the National Bureau of Investigation in January 2018 when a defamation complaint was made

Ms Ressa is a vocal critic of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, and her work saw her named by Time Magazine last year.

Time said her publication was carrying out “fearless reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s propaganda machine and extrajudicial killings”.

Amnesty International said Ms Ressa’s arrest was “brazenly politically motivated”.

Agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Ms Ressa at the Rappler office and she was escorted to NBI headquarters.

She said: “We are not intimidated. No amount of legal cases, black propaganda and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line.

“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.”

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at the Davao international airport terminal building early on September 30, 2016, shortly after arriving from an official visit to Vietnam. Duterte on September 30 drew a parallel with his deadly crime war and Hitler's massacre of Jews, as he said he was 'happy to slaughter' millions of drug addicts. / AFP / MANMAN DEJETO (Photo credit should read MANMAN DEJETO/AFP/Getty Images)
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Rappler has been critical of Rodrigo Duterte

Menardo Guevarra, the justice secretary, said Ms Ressa was indicted more than a week ago.

As Ms Ressa was arrested so late in the afternoon it was “difficult if not impossible” for her to post bail before the courts closed, her lawyer said.

The journalist is no stranger to facing criminal charges. She has been indicted several times, most recently on tax evasion charges, with one stating her company failed to file $3m (£2.3m) in taxes in 2015.

She told CNN, her former employers, she had “long run out of synonyms for the word ‘ridiculous’.”

Rappler’s operating licence was rescinded in 2018 and this and the tax evasion cases are ongoing.

Chay Hofilena, Rappler’s investigative editor, said: “These cases are intended to intimidate us. We know that’s the intent, we are not buckling.”

Maria Ressa in 2018 with her arrest warrant for a tax fraud charge
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Maria Ressa in 2018 with her arrest warrant for a tax fraud charge

Rappler is one of several news agencies which have been deemed critical of Mr Duterte’s policies, including his anti-drug campaign, that has left thousands of suspects dead.

Mr Duterte has called Rappler a “fake news outlet” and suggested it could be linked to the CIA.

But he says he has never punished anyone for criticising him.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement: “The Philippine government’s legal harassment of Rappler and Ressa has now reached a critical and alarming juncture.

“We call on Filipino authorities to immediately release Ressa, drop this spurious cyber libel charge, and cease and desist this campaign of intimidation aimed at silencing Rappler.”

Ms Ressa has also won the Press Freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Centre for Journalists’ Knight International Journalism Award.

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Former IS bride urges UK to show Shamima Begum mercy | World News

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A former British IS bride has urged the public to show Shamima Begum “mercy” – but says the teenager is immature and should be asking for forgiveness.

Tania Joya was married to an American Muslim convert who became one of Islamic State’s leading militants before she became disillusioned with the group and escaped Syria six years ago, pregnant and with three children.

The 35-year-old, who now lives in Texas with her second husband, grew up in Harrow, northwest London, where she was brought up as a Muslim and says she was not taught any other values or beliefs.

She said her situation was very similar to 19-year-old Shamima Begum’s, who wants to return to the UK four years after fleeing to Syria where she married a Dutch IS fighter and recently gave birth to her third child, now her only surviving child.



Shamima Begum talking to Sky News







‘No evidence I did anything dangerous’

Ms Joya, who has renounced Islam and now helps other ex-IS wives and jihadists, told Sky News: “I feel that I probably would have made the same mistake as she did if I was 15 years old and in her situation.

“Most conservative Muslim homes do not teach humanism and secular values, we’re usually taught to fear God and God’s law overrides any other law, the rule of law in the country.

“I feel like she doesn’t understand there are other ways of thinking and a form of justice – she’s so young that she hasn’t done the research, the psychology of human beings and why people do the things they do.

“Right now, she’s thinking very binary and everything has to be life or death.

“With people like Shamima, and the situation I was in when I was younger, we were deceived to believe that this life isn’t real, the life after we die is the real existence – it’s all a lie.”

Shamima Begum
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Shamima Begum fled the UK to join IS in Syria in 2015

Ms Joya married Texas-based former Greek Orthodox Christian John Georgelas – known as Yahya al Bahrumi – after meeting him on a Muslim marriage website in 2003.

She says he was clever, inspiring and made her believe in IS. From the US, they went to Egypt where he became a more prominent figure in IS circles and he then forced her to go to Syria for a week – then made her stay.

Unlike Ms Joya, Shamima Begum voluntarily joined IS in Syria, but the reformed Islamist said she can understand how the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl got to that point.

“I believe Shamima was in a situation very similar to my own where we weren’t allowed to have that freedom to think for ourselves, we weren’t allowed to be independent-minded women,” she added.

“I think I just needed an answer, at 19 years old – from 17-19 that’s when I became radical. I wasn’t hearing a good argument, nobody could understand what was going through my mind.

“They didn’t understand I turned to religion to cope with my depression.

“I really would have liked to have heard a voice of reason and also good role models in my life, that was something that wasn’t present in my life when I was growing up.

“I think Shamima was in a similar situation, maybe she felt like an outcast, being Bengali, being from an immigrant family, being not well off in the UK.

“Maybe she and her friends felt like they didn’t have the same opportunities. I can only speak for myself but I know that’s how I felt.”

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A Sky Data poll on 14 Feb 2019 found the majority of Britons think Shamima Begum should not be allowed to return to the UK

Ms Joya said Shamima Begum’s apparent lack of empathy and apology for joining IS is “despicable”, but she said she is immature and has had “no chance to think otherwise”.

She said: “I can only hope that we can rehabilitate her and teach her about secular humanism and Western principles, because I don’t believe she was taught that to begin with.

“She should be asking for mercy, for forgiveness. Because, she’s asking for forgiveness from people she was at war with.

“She needs counselling and psychiatric help, anti-depressants.

“She’s very young, she doesn’t understand. She needs exposure.”

Ms Joya said she believes Shamima Begum can be taught, especially as she was doing well at school before she left – and she needs to be helped “for the sake of her child”.

“Because if we help her, we can help her child, for the good of society,” she said.

“I hope the British public can have mercy on her.

“She’s still only 19 and she’s been for four years around a group of very draconian-like, brutal people who really are not in tune with the 21st Century.

“I believe through education we can enlighten her.

Kadiza Sultana (L), Shamima Begum (C) and Amira Abase going through Gatwick security before catching a flight to Turkey
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Kadiza Sultana (L), Shamima Begum (C) and Amira Abase going through Gatwick security before catching a flight to Turkey

“Right now, as extremist Muslims they don’t believe in freedom of thought because they’ve been indoctrinated and been taught not to question their Islamic beliefs, not to question Sharia or God.

“But we live in a free society where we can question everything and that’s the only way we can get to the truth.

“I want to explain to her a secular, humanist perspective and there are ways of getting involved with the political process without violence.”

Ms Joya said she hopes Shamima Begum, and others returning from IS, get in contact with her so she can explain how they can change.

“There’s so many things I want to say to her and others. It took me a long time to learn but it was liberating and enlightening and I want her to learn that for her and her child,” she added.

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‘Honeypot of juicy political gossip hoovered up’ in Australia cyber attack | World News

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A “sophisticated state actor” has carried out a cyber attack on the Australian parliament’s computing network – just a month before an election.

The country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, described the attack as a “malicious intrusion” which also affected the network used by major political parties.

Although there is no evidence that data was accessed as a result of the breach, politicians were being urged to change their passwords.

Mr Morrison said the cyber attack was probably carried out by a foreign government, but he stopped short of naming any suspects.

Alastair MacGibbon, the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, told reporters: “Our political institutions represent high-value targets.

“We will continue to work with our friends and colleagues, both here and overseas, to work out who is behind it and hopefully their intent.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the attack did not compromise any data
Image:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the attack did not compromise any data

Analysts have said China, Russia and Iran were the most likely culprits.

Fergus Hanson, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank, said: “When you consider motivation, you would have to say that China is the leading suspect, while you wouldn’t rule out Russia either.

“It is the honeypot of juicy political gossip that has been hoovered up. Emails showing everything from the dirty laundry of internal fights through to who supported a policy could be on display.”

Ties with China have deteriorated since 2017 after Canberra accused Beijing of meddling in its affairs – and in 2011, China was reportedly suspected of accessing the email system used by MPs and parliamentary staff in Australia.

Election interference has been high on the international agenda since the 2016 presidential election in the US.

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