The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) came to Maria Ressa’s defense after Malacañang accused her of “playing the victim card” by raising the ABS-CBN franchise renewal issue after pleading not guilty to one of her five tax-related charges.

In a statement, the NUJP said the Rappler executive editor was a victim of a “vindictive government.”

“Does being accused preclude a person from discussing matters of clear public interest? With the highest official in the land breathing down Rappler’s neck, Ressa doesn’t need to play at being anything. There can be no doubt that, like ABS-CBN, she is a victim,” the journalists’ group said.

NUJP also pointed out that to date, Malacañang has yet to explain the airing of edited speeches of President Rodrigo Duterte, which cut out parts where he lashed out against ABS-CBN and Rappler.

Roque’s claim that the fact that even networks which were on the receiving end of Duterte’s threats in the past continue to report on current events until today, does not by any stretch of the imagination “does not by any stretch of the imagination, mean freedom of the press and of expression are alive and well in the Philippines,” the NUJP said.

“That they and all other independent news organizations continue to do so means that the community of independent Filipino journalists refuses to be cowed by this administration’s attempts to silence the free press,” it added.

Malacañang had repeatedly denied Duterte’s involvement in Ressa’s cyber libel conviction and the ABS-CBN shutdown, saying the executive branch respects the independence of the legislative and judicial branches. John Ezekiel J. Hirro