Philippine Court Clears Nobel Winner Maria Ressa Of Tax Evasion

Philippine Court Clears Nobel Winner Maria Ressa Of Tax Evasion

Nobel Winner Maria Ressa Acquitted of Tax Evasion

Maria Ressa, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist from the Philippines, was cleared of tax evasion charges on Monday (7th June 2021) after a long legal battle. The decision by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court marks a victory for freedom of the press in the Philippines and a victory for Ressa and her supporters. Ressa, the executive editor of the online news site Rappler, was accused of failing to file tax returns in 2015 and 2016. She faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison if convicted. The court, however, found the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, and ruled that Ressa was not guilty. The ruling was welcomed by Ressa, who said in a statement that she was “relieved” and “grateful” for the court’s decision.

Background of the Case

The tax evasion case against Ressa was part of a wider campaign of harassment against the journalist and her organization. Ressa and Rappler have been targeted by the Philippine government since 2017 for their reporting and criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. Ressa and Rappler have faced multiple lawsuits from government-linked entities, and a number of other criminal charges. In 2019, Ressa was convicted of cyber libel for a story published in 2012, although the conviction was eventually overturned by the Philippine Supreme Court. The case against Ressa has been widely condemned by press freedom and human rights organizations, who have argued that the charges against her are politically motivated. The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations have all expressed concern about the case.

Implications of the Court’s Ruling

The court’s ruling has been welcomed by press freedom advocates, who have hailed it as a victory for press freedom in the Philippines. The ruling is a blow to the Duterte administration, which has been accused of using the legal system to silence its critics. The decision is also a victory for Ressa and her supporters, who have argued that the tax evasion charges were politically motivated. Ressa has said that the case was an attempt to “intimidate” her and “silence the press”. The court’s ruling could also mark a turning point in the fight for press freedom in the Philippines. With this decision, the court has sent a clear message that journalists should not be targeted for their work. It is now up to the Philippine government to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their work without fear of prosecution.

International Support for Ressa

The case against Ressa has attracted international attention, with several foreign governments and international organizations expressing their support for the journalist. The United States government has been particularly vocal in its support for Ressa. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that he was “pleased” by the court’s decision, and urged the Philippine government to “stop targeting journalists, human rights defenders, and activists for their work”. The European Union also welcomed the court’s ruling, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying in a statement that the decision was “a victory for press freedom and justice”. The United Nations has also expressed its support for Ressa. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that she was “relieved” by the decision and called on the Philippine government to “prevent further attempts to silence journalists and other voices of dissent”.

Ressa’s Fight for Press Freedom

Ressa has been a tireless advocate for press freedom in the Philippines. Despite the harassment and legal challenges she has faced, she has continued to speak out against the government’s attacks on the media. Ressa has also used her platform to highlight the plight of other journalists in the Philippines who are facing similar legal challenges. She has called on the government to drop the charges against other journalists and media outlets, and to ensure that they can do their work without fear of harassment or prosecution. Ressa’s fight for press freedom has been an inspiration to journalists around the world. Her courage and determination have shown that journalists can stand up to oppressive governments and fight for their rights. Her story is a reminder that press freedom is worth fighting for.

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