Maria Ressa, a Filipino journalist, has been cleared of tax evasion.

In a move hailed as a victory for press freedom, a Philippine court acquitted journalist Maria Ressa and news outlet Rappler of tax evasion.

“Today, facts win, truth wins, and justice wins,” said Ms Ressa, who faced up to 34 years in prison if convicted.

The legal victory for the Nobel Laureate brings an end to a case that began in 2018.

Ms Ressa, the founder of Rappler, has been the subject of legal proceedings initiated by the Philippine government.

Under former President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine government accused Ms Ressa and Rappler of evading taxes when they raised funds through a partnership with foreign investors.

According to the Philippines’ Department of Justice, Rappler’s issuance of financial instruments known as Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreign investors Omidyar Network and North Base Media generated taxable income worth 141.86 million pesos (£2.1 million; $2.58 million) in 2015, which it did not declare.

Ms Ressa and Rappler both denied the allegations, claiming that the transactions involved legitimate financial mechanisms that did not result in taxable income.

Why is Rappler causing concern about Philippine press freedom?
The Philippine government also revoked Rappler’s operating license in January 2018. It said the media site, which has two US investors, had violated a clause in the constitution that limits media ownership to Philippine citizens.

Ms Ressa was previously convicted of libel and sentenced in June 2020 to up to six years in prison. She was eventually released on bail.

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