Manila, Sep 12 (EFE).- A court in the Philippines acquitted Philippine journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa and her news portal Rappler of the last tax evasion charge against her on Tuesday.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, the CEO of online news site Rappler, comes out of the regional trial court in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 12 September 2023. EFE-EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA
This was the last tax-related charge filed against Ressa and Rappler under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte in November 2018.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, the CEO of online news site Rappler, reacts from inside a vehicle outside the regional trial court in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 12 September 2023. EFE-EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA
The ruling comes eight months after the Court of Tax Appeals – the last resort for legal appeals – dismissed another four tax cases against her, ending four years and 10 months of trial of the case.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa (C), the CEO of online news site Rappler, talks to journalists outside the regional trial court in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 12 September 2023. EFE-EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA
Ressa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, runs Rappler, which earned a reputation for intense scrutiny of Duterte’s tenure and his deadly war on drugs.
“This is a victory not just for Rappler but for everyone who has kept the faith that a free and responsible press empowers communities and strengthens democracy,” Rappler said in a statement.
“We share this with our colleagues in the industry who have been besieged by relentless online attacks, unjust arrests and detentions, and red-tagging that have resulted in physical harm,” it added.
Ressa and Rappler were critical of Duterte and his policies such as the war on drugs that has taken the lives of thousands of people, and the journalist has always maintained that the numerous court cases she faces are part of a pattern of political persecution and harassment.
Despite this, Ressa said that her acquittal sends a “good signal” to the business community, as her tax charges “have a lot to do with the rule of law.”
“The acquittal now strengthens our resolve to continue with the justice system, to submit ourselves to the court despite the political harassment, despite the attack on press freedom,” Ressa told reporters after the ruling.
“It shows that the court system works. We hope to see the remaining charges dismissed,” she added.
There are still two active court cases pending – two appeals involving Ressa’s conviction for cyber-libel and the ordered shutdown of Rappler over foreign media ownership laws.
Ressa was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2021 (with Russian journalist Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov) for exposing abuse of power and the use of violence and growing authoritarianism in the Philippines, her attention to Duterte’s war on drugs, and combating fake news and misinformation. EFE