Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa exonerated of ‘foreign ownership’ charges

Ms Ressa described the dismissal of the charge as justice well served.

• December 12, 2023
Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Maria Ressa, has again scored a significant victory as the Philippine Justice Department dismissed the allegation of foreign ownership levelled against her news company, Rappler, according to a statement by her lawyers on Tuesday.

Ms Ressa, a Philippine journalist, if found guilty and convicted of the criminal allegation, would have served a 21-year sentence.

In 2019, she was charged with breaking the Philippines Securities Regulation Code in relation to a 2015 investment fund that an American corporation made. It was alleged sans evidence that Rappler was being controlled by foreign forces.

The legal team for Ms Ressa, led by Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, successfully argued that the charge should be dropped given that it lacked evidence that the company’s records did not indicate a change of ownership. 

The attorneys implied the criminal charges were merely a witch hunt to frustrate Ms Ressa for the kind of journalism she practised. They added that other companies had also secured funding from foreign investors but were not prosecuted as in the case of Ms Ressa.

“For years, our brave client Maria Ressa has faced a barrage of spurious criminal investigations and prosecutions for doing her job — for being a journalist. We are pleased to see another spurious case against Maria dismissed,” Ms Gallagher said in a statement on Tuesday. “The authorities must end this once and for all, drop all remaining charges and concede Maria’s cyberlibel appeal.”     

Ms Clooney, similarly, expressed delight over the dismissal of the four-year-old allegations, calling it a victory for the press.

“This is an important victory for Maria and for the press. Maria has spent four years with these baseless charges hanging over her, and we are delighted that they have finally been dismissed,” Ms Clooney, a lawyer whose powerful clientele ranges from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the former president of Maldive, Mohamed Nasheed.

Ms Ressa described the dismissal of the charge as justice well served.

“Again, facts win. Truth wins. Justice wins. We will continue to hold the line,” exonerated Ms Ressa said in a statement.

Still, the Nobel Laureate has other allegations she was battling in court, including the appeal of a six and a half years sentence over cyber libel. Ms Clooney said she was hopeful the other charges would also be dropped.

“We hope that the remaining charges will now be dropped so that justice can be restored and journalism can thrive in the Philippines,” added Ms Clooney.

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