Journalist Maria Ressa cleared of tax evasion by Philippine court

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and her news site Rappler were acquitted by a court of tax evasion charges Wednesday, a judge said, handing Ressa victory in a case that veteran journalist described as part of a pattern of harassment.

Ressa, who received the Nobel Peace Prize along with a Russian journalist in 2021, is the director of Rappler, which has built a reputation for its in-depth reporting and rigorous scrutiny of former President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs.

“This acquittal is not just for Rappler, it is for every Filipino who has ever been wrongfully accused,” Ressa said after the verdict, describing it as a victory for justice and truth.

She said the charges were “politically motivated” and “a blatant abuse of power.”

The tax evasion case arose from allegations by the state revenue agency that Rappler had omitted from its tax returns the proceeds from a 2015 sale of certificates of deposit to foreign investors, which later became the basis of the regulator. stock to revoke your license.

The Philippine justice department said it respected the court’s decision.

Ressa, 59, is currently out on bail while appealing a six-year prison sentence handed down in 2020 for a libel conviction.

He has been fighting a series of government lawsuits that have fueled international concern over media harassment in the Philippines, one of the most dangerous places in Asia for journalists.

The Philippines was ranked 147th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the Philippines seventh in the world in its 2021 Impunity Index, which tracks the deaths of members of the media whose killers go free.

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