Responding to the decision by the Court of Tax Appeals to acquit Maria Ressa of four counts of tax evasion, Butch Olano, Amnesty International Philippines Section Director, said:
“Amnesty International welcomes the decision to drop charges of tax evasion against prominent journalist and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa. We call on authorities to now drop cyber libel and other additional charges looming over Ressa so she can continue doing her job.
“The cyber libel provision of the Cybercrime Prevention Act continues to be misused and abused by the authorities to intimidate journalists and harass human rights defenders speaking truth to power. This practice threatens the right to freedom of expression and the press, and further drives impunity in the government.
“Amnesty International reiterates its call to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to ensure that stronger measures are in place to investigate human rights violations that journalists write about, with the aim of providing facts to expose the truth.
“Instead of keeping silent amid harassment and attacks against journalists, Marcos Jr. should lead the effort in repealing and amending all discriminatory laws restricting the rights to freedom of the press and of expression, including the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and take serious steps to cease attacks against independent journalists and the media in general.”
On 18 January 2023, the First Division of the Court of Tax Appeals acquitted Maria Ressa and her website Rappler of tax evasion. RHC (Rappler’s holding company) and its president Ressa were charged with three counts of violations of Section 255 and one count of violation of Section 254 of the Tax Code of the National Internal Revenue Code.
Since 2018, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Maria Ressa and her website Rappler have collectively faced multiple lawsuits and investigations, including alleged tax violations and violations of the prohibition against foreign control over mass media. Amnesty International believes that the charges are politically motivated.
Ressa and Rappler were consistent critics of former President Duterte and his administration, publishing detailed investigations into drug-related cases of extrajudicial executions and attacks on human rights defenders as well as corruption. Since July 2022, Rappler has continued its hard-hitting journalism and has also published investigations into the new administration of President Marcos Jr.