Amal Clooney, celebrity international lawyer wife of actor George Clooney,  and her fellow Doughty Street Chambers barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher will lead a team of international lawyers representing Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who currently faces a string of cases in Philippine courts.

Ressa, CEO of  local news website Rappler, faces nine cases in at least five courts in the Philippines. She was arrested twice this year, but was released after posting bail. 

Filipino lawyers  currently represent Ressa in Philippine courts. The journalist is currently being defended by the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA), one of the top law firms in the country, for the corporate-related cases filed against her before the Court of Tax Appeals and Pasig court.

Former Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te and the Free Legal Assistance Group, on the other hand, handle the cyber libel cases that Ressa and a former Rappler researcher face before a Manila court. 

As international lawyers, Clooney and  Gallagher will look into how they could protect Ressa and Rappler under international law. 

Amal Clooney Lawyer Amal Clooney speaks during a news conference in central London, Oct. 5, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Clooney and  Gallagher’s legal team will work closely with lawyers in the United States including former US Ambassador Daniel Feldman, Can Yeginsu and Katherine O’Byrne, and Ressa’s lawyers in the Philippines. 

Rights defenders attribute Ressa’s legal struggles to her news site’s reporting of human rights violations under the Duterte administration.  Ressa, Rappler, the publication’s directors and staff all face at least 11 complaints, investigations and cases that started after President Rodrigo declared that Rappler was “fully owned by Americans” in his 2017 State of the Nation Address. 

"Maria Ressa is a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses," Clooney said

Ressa said she is delighted that Clooney’s team will represent her on the international level. She said that the support of international lawyers will shine light on the situation of Philippine media and elsewhere where press freedom is under threat. 

“I have been targeted and attacked simply for being an independent journalist. I am delighted that Amal Clooney and her team will be representing me at the international level to challenge the violations of my rights and those of the media organization I represent,” Ressa said.

Clooney has also represented jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were freed from prison last May. In 2015, she also filed a case against the Philippine government before the United Nation over the detention of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.