Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa acquitted of tax evasion
January 18, 2023 / 2:47 PM
Sharjah24 - AFP: Maria Ressa, a Filipino Nobel Prize recipient who has long argued that the allegations against her are politically motivated, was cleared of tax evasion on Wednesday. She called the decision a triumph for "truth."
Ressa, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, still faces three other cases, including a cyber libel conviction now under appeal that could mean nearly seven years in prison.
"Today, facts win. Truth wins," a teary-eyed and defiant Ressa told reporters outside the Manila courtroom after the ruling on four government charges that she and her online media company Rappler had dodged taxes in a 2015 bond sale to foreign investors.
It was her first court acquittal since former president Rodrigo Duterte's government began filing charges against her. Ressa had earlier termed the cases "politically motivated" and "a brazen abuse of power".
The tax court said prosecutors failed to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that Ressa and Rappler had evaded income taxes.
In a separate interview with AFP following her acquittal, Ressa said the verdict was a "victory for journalists" in the Philippines and around the world.
"If you stand up to power, yes you get beaten up (for) four years and two months. But right will win," Ressa said.
"I think this is hope for anyone who has been unjustly accused."
The 59-year-old has been battling a series of cases that media advocates say were filed due to her vocal criticism of Duterte and his drug war, which claimed thousands of lives.
Ressa and Muratov were awarded the Nobel for their efforts to "safeguard freedom of expression".
In a statement, Rappler said: "An adverse decision would have had far-reaching repercussions on both the press and the capital markets... With you we will continue to #HoldTheLine" -- a slogan used to symbolise their fight for press freedom.