Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Court exonerates journalist Maria Ressa from tax evasion charges

The charges were preferred against her by former President Rodrigo Duterte in a perceived move to silence and intimidate the press.

• January 18, 2023
Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa

Maria Ressa, a Philippine journalist and Nobel Peace laureate, has been acquitted of tax evasion charges preferred against her by former President Rodrigo Duterte in a perceived move to silence and intimidate the press.

On Wednesday, the Court of Tax Appeals ruled that the prosecution counsels failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that Ms Ressa and Rappler, parent company of her news organisation, were indeed guilty of non-remittance of taxes on an investment made by Omidyar Network, a U.S.-based firm owned by Pierre Omidyar, founder of Ebay.

“Facts win, truth wins, justice wins,” Ms Ressa said in reaction to her acquittal outside the courthouse. 

“These charges were politically motivated, they were incredible to us, a brazen abuse of power, and meant to stop journalists from doing their jobs. These cases are where capital markets, rule of law, and press freedom meet,” she said.

Similarly, Rappler, described the verdict as “the triumph of facts over politics.”

The acquittal, however, does not mean the end of Ms Ressa’s legal battles as she and her company  Rappler, still have three other active cases in court.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ National Union of Journalists asserted the acquittal was an inspiration for reporters who suffer intimidation and harassment in the course of duty.

“While colleagues similarly face legal challenges – from libel to made-up terrorism charges – in relation to their work, we take inspiration from this acquittal that if we stand up and hold the line, we can win,” the union said in a statement.

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