Maria Ressa | Photo: AFP
Manila [Philippines]: Nobel laureate and journalist Maria Ressa was acquitted of tax evasion charges by a Philippine court on Wednesday, according to CNN.
The founder and CEO of Rappler, a news site, Ressa was cleared of four cases which could have landed her 34 years in prison. A veteran journalist, she was a former CNN bureau chief.
"Today, facts win, truth wins, justice wins," CNN quoted the Nobel laureate as saying on Wednesday outside the court in Manila upon being freed.
"These charges were politically motivated," as she called them "a brazen abuse of power and meant to stop journalists from doing their jobs."
Notably, she was held guilty of four counts of tax violations filed in 2018 by former President Rodrigo Duterte's government, an official from the Court of Tax Appeals confirmed to CNN, and was under numerous legal battles in recent years.
Ressa's news organisation, Rappler which remains operational, is fighting the Securities and Exchange Commission's order to close it.
She and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to protect freedom of expression in the Philippines. Rappler, which Ressa founded in 2012, rose to prominence for its unflinching coverage of Duterte and his brutal "war on drugs."
Dmitry Muratov, a Russian journalist and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions.
The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in Asia for journalists. It was ranked 147th out of 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index.