Maria Ressa, a veteran journalist and Nobel laureate, was on Wednesday acquitted on tax evasion, according to a report in The Guardian. She is widely considered the "face of free press in the Philippines". Ms Ressa had described the case as politically motivated, calling the verdict a victory for "truth". The chief executive and co-founder of Rappler shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021. Ms Ressa, however, still faces three other cases, including a cyber libel conviction now under appeal that could mean nearly seven years in prison.
"These cases are where capital markets, rule of law, and where press freedom meet so this acquittal is not just for Rappler, it's for every Filipino who has ever been unjustly accused. Today, facts win, truth wins, justice wins," Ms Ressa said while addressing the media after the verdict.
Ms Ressa was praised for exposing abuses of power and authoritarianism under former President Rodrigo Duterte, according to The Guardian report.
Under Mr Duterte, the Philippine government had accused Ms Ressa and Rappler of evading tax payments while raising capital from foreign investors, as per the BBC.
The 2018 case accused the journalist and her organization of not declaring taxable income worth $2.58 million in 2015. But Ms Ressa had denied the charge and said the transaction was carried out through legitimate financial mechanisms that do not generate taxable income.
The Philippines' Court of Tax Appeals said the prosecutors failed to prove Ms Ressa and Rappler's guilt beyond reasonable doubt an concluded that they did not gain from the transactions, according to the BBC report.