MANILA — Philippines Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and her news site Rappler were acquitted of tax fraud by a trial court on Tuesday, in another legal victory for the embattled journalist.
Ressa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside a Russian journalist, is head of Rappler, which earned a reputation for its intense scrutiny of former President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs.
After the verdict was announced, Ressa told reporters she felt “good” felt about the court’s decision.
Ressa’s acquittal was expected after she was cleared of similar tax charges nine months ago.
Those charges stem from a 2018 government indictment that accuses Ressa and Rappler of dodging tax payments after failing to declare proceeds of a 2015 sale of depositary receipts to foreign investors.
Ressa, 59, is currently on bail and was convicted in 2020 for cyber libel in one of several cases against the website filed by government agencies. She maintained those cases were politically motivated.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has been in office for 14 months, has said he would not interfere in the court cases against Rappler.
Rappler is still operating unhindered pending its appeal against a closure order from the securities regulator.
The Philippines is ranked 132 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, describing its media as “extremely vibrant despite the government’s targeted attacks and constant harassment” against journalists that are “too critical”.
– Reporting by Mikhail Flores; Editing by Martin Petty and Kanupriya Kapoor