Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the highest judicial authorities in the Philippines to stop harassing the news website Rappler and its editor Maria Ressa, a symbol of press freedom in her country, who is due to be arraigned in court today on the fifth of a series of tax evasion charges brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Ressa, who is facing the possibility of up to ten years in prison, is scheduled to appear before a regional court in the Manila suburb of Prasig on a charge of failing to supply correct Value Added Tax information in 2015.
The DOJ previously filed four similar charges – including failure to file an income tax return and tax evasion – before the Court of Tax Appeals at the end of last month (from 26 to 28 November). Rappler told RSF that Ressa would obviously plead not guilty.
“The determination with which the Philippine authorities are trying to crush Maria Ressa and the entire Rappler staff is acquiring a clearly disturbing character,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“Although the website has acted with exemplary transparency, its editor is being forced to defend herself as if she were a criminal, whereas it is the government that is behaving like a shameless hoodlum. The country’s highest judicial authorities must draw the necessary conclusions and end this farce.”
The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.