A Regional Trial Court in Manila, Philippines, today acquitted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa and her news outlet Rappler on the final criminal tax charge brought against them by the regime of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
The judgment comes after a legal battle lasting nearly five years. If they had lost the case, Ms Ressa could have been jailed for up to 10 years.
The Hold the Line Coalition (HTL), a group of 80 organizations campaigning for justice for Ms Ressa and of which MDIF is part, said: “This verdict underlines that it is possible for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to chart a different course to his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who waged a relentless campaign of media repression. We hope this judgment signals a revival of judicial independence in the Philippines after the previous administration’s instrumentalisation of the courts as a means to erode press freedom and discredit independent reporting.
“As an immediate next step, we call on the government to abandon all remaining cases against Rappler and Ressa, and in doing so, put a long-overdue end to their persecution,” said the HTL statement.
Early this year, following President Marcos’ election victory, Ms Ressa and Rappler were acquitted of four tax evasion cases by the Court of Tax Appeals in Manila.
Rappler and Ms Ressa faced a sustained campaign of legal persecution and online violence under the previous President, with 23 cases against them opened since 2018.
Three further cases against Ms Ressa and Rappler remain.