Philippine Nobel winner Ressa cleared of tax evasion

STORY: "Today, facts win. Truth wins. Justice wins."

Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and her news site Rappler were cleared of tax evasion charges on Wednesday.

Outside the court in Manila, the veteran journalist was emotional as she accused authorities of using lawsuits as a pattern of harassment and intimidation against journalists.

“These charges, as you know, were politically motivated, they were incredible to us. A brazen abuse of power and meant to stop journalists from doing their jobs."

Ressa is the CEO and co-founder of Rappler, known for its critical reporting on former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside a Russian journalist.

The tax case began in 2018, when authorities accused Rappler of hiding gains linked to foreign investors in its 2015 tax returns.

That later became the securities regulator's basis to revoke its license – although Rappler continues to operate.

The Philippine's justice department said on Wednesday it respected the decision of the court.

“Yes, it’s the first one.”

Ressa gleefully announced after the verdict that it was her first acquittal in a string of government lawsuits against her and her news outlet.

The 59-year-old is currently on bail as she appeals a six-year prison sentence handed down in 2020 for a libel conviction.

The Philippines is one of Asia's most dangerous places for journalists.

It ranked 147 out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index.