Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Resa and her online media outlet Rappler have been acquitted of tax evasion.
Wednesday’s appeals court decision gave Ressa victory in a case it described as part of a pattern of harassment. If convicted, she would have faced 34 years in prison.
Ressa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, is the president of Rappler, which has built a reputation for its in-depth reporting and scrutiny of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Today, facts prevail. Truth wins. “Justice prevails,” said an emotional chief after Wednesday’s ruling.
She told reporters, “These accusations, as you know, are politically motivated, constitute a gross abuse of power and are intended to prevent journalists from doing their jobs.”
These states are where the capital markets are, where the rule of law exists and where freedom of the press meets. So this patent is not just for Rappler. This is for every Filipino who has been wrongfully accused.
The tax evasion case stems from accusations by the state revenue agency that Rappler omitted from its tax returns the proceeds from the sale of certificates of deposit in 2015 to foreign investors. This later became the basis on which the securities regulator revoked the media license.
Rappler is still in business and is fighting against an SEC order to shut it down.
Raisa, 59, still faces three more criminal cases, including a cyber defamation conviction, currently on appeal, and faces nearly seven years in prison.
Amnesty International welcomed Wednesday’s decision and urged the authorities to drop the remaining cases. The rights group said Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should review the laws under which she was accused under his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.
“Cyber-defamation provisions in the Cybercrime Prevention Act continue to be mistreated and abused by authorities to intimidate journalists and harass human rights defenders who speak truth to power,” said Butch Olano, Philippine director of Amnesty International in the Philippines, in a statement. . This practice threatens the right to freedom of expression and the press, and increases impunity within the government. »
Marcos Junior said in September he would not meddle in Risa’s affairs, citing the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government.
The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in Asia for journalists. It is ranked 147 out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index.
The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks seventh globally in its 2021 Impunity Index, which tracks murders of media professionals whose killers are released.