The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today vehemently condemned the decision of the Philippines government to prosecute news site Rappler and its founder, Maria Ressa, on charges of tax evasion.
“President Rodrigo Duterte is increasingly seeking to silence his critics by any means”, IPI Head of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “Unable to withstand genuine and harsh criticism of his government, he is attempting to shut down Rappler and silence Maria Ressa on retaliatory tax charges.”
Prosecutors at the Philippine Ministry of Justice have accused Rappler and Ressa of failing to pay tax on bond sales in 2015 that brought in 162.5 pesos (2.7 million euros). Ressa faces a fine and up to 10 years in jail if found guilty. She has denied the charges.
Rappler’s investigative reporting has revealed the extent of political corruption in the country. Earlier this year, IPI and International Media Support (IMS) honoured Rappler as their 2018 Free Media Pioneer in recognition of the news website’s innovative approach to journalism and audience engagement as well as its determination to hold authorities accountable despite aggressive attacks on its operations.
Prasad urged President Duterte and the secretary of justice, Menardo I. Guevarra, to rescind the plans to prosecute Rappler and Ressa. Instead of harassing Rappler, he said, the government should instead look at the investigations conducted by the media outlet and take actions against corrupt government officials.