Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa Cleared of Tax Evasion, Confirms Media Freedom Victory

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Maria Ressa, the illustrious Filipino Nobel Peace laureate, was absolved of tax evasion charges earlier this Tuesday. This is the most recent in a line of legal triumphs for the venerated journalist, as per information sourced from her news outlet, Rappler.

Both Maria Ressa and Rappler have successfully fought off all of the five tax-related indictments raised during the tenure of Rodrigo Duterte, the former President of Philippines, as reported by CNN affiliate, CNN Philippines.

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Francis Lim, the legal representative of Ressa, expressed the larger implications of the outcome to enthusiastic supporters gathered outside the Pasig city’s Regional Trial Court. “This is not merely a triumph for Maria but a momentous victory for the Philippines. These series of acquittals echo a resounding message to the international business sphere.”

Maria Ressa holds the reins as the CEO of Rappler, a venture she co-founded, with a successful past as a journalist for CNN. A statement from Rappler underscored the broader significance of the victory for press freedoms. “This signifies a win for all who believe in the power of free and responsible press to invigorate communities and fortify democracy,” read the statement.

The statement also ensured the victory was shared with their co-workers in the industry who have encountered relentless online harassment, unjust arrests and detentions, and red-tagging resulting in physical harm. “We share this victory with all the Filipinos who pursue business for social good but, like us, have borne the brunt of oppressive governments,” it added.

This exculpation arrives eight months subsequent to Ressa being acquitted of four previous incidents of tax violations lodged in 2018 by the Duterte administration.

Ressa, aged 59, is presently released on bail as she contests a six-year prison sentence handed to her in 2020 pertaining to an unrelated cyber libel conviction. Her tireless efforts to protect freedom of expression in the Philippines have garnered international recognition, earning her the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which she shares with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.