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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Philippine Nobel winner Maria Ressa acquitted of tax evasion

Ressa, the CEO and co-founder of investigative outlet Rappler, is a fierce critic of former Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte. She believes the charges against her are politically motivated.

Deutsche Welle Published 12.09.23, 04:46 PM
Ressa has managed to get rid of her tax evasion charges, after a years long legal battle

Ressa has managed to get rid of her tax evasion charges, after a years long legal battle Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images

Ressa, the CEO and co-founder of investigative outlet Rappler, is a fierce critic of former Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte. She believes the charges against her are politically motivated.

A court in the Philippines on Tuesday acquitted investigative journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa of the final tax evasion charge that had been filed against her.

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Ressa had a smile on her face as the judge delivered the acquittal, said AFP news agency. "You gotta have faith," she told reporters outside the courtroom.

"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," she added.

Ressa, 59, who jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, has found herself embroiled in multiple legal disputes that started during the tenure of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Ressa, who has previously opened DW's Global Media Forum in Bonn, is the CEO and co-founder of investigative outlet Rappler.

A vocal critic of Duterte and his controversial anti-drug campaign, she has maintained that the charges against her and Rappler were politically motivated. A US citizen, she has chosen to remain based in the Philippines.

What were the charges?

Ressa and Rappler had been confronted with five government charges related to tax evasion stemming from the sale of Philippine depositary receipts in 2015, a financial instrument used by companies to raise funds from foreign investors.

In January, they were cleared of four charges by one court. The final charge was heard by a different court, which also exonerated Ressa from any wrongdoing.

Despite the acquittals, Ressa and Rappler still confront an uncertain future as they face two additional legal battles.

Ressa and her former colleague, Rey Santos Jr., are currently appealing a cyber libel conviction that carries a nearly seven-year prison sentence. She is currently on bail and requires court permission for international travel.

Rappler is challenging an order from the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission to shut down based on allegations of violating the ban on foreign ownership in media.

Ressa and Rappler's legal troubles commenced in 2016 following Duterte's election, during which he frequently attacked his critics.

Another prominent critic of Duterte, human rights campaigner Leila de Lima, has spent over six years in detention on drug trafficking charges that she says were fabricated to silence her.

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