GENEVA (6 December 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, has called on the Philippine authorities to drop charges against online news website Rappler and its Chief Executive, Maria Ressa, saying the charges were being used a censorship tool.
Between 26 and 28 November, the Department of Justice filed four tax related cases with the Court of Tax Appeals. Among the cases is one for tax evasion filed against Rappler and Ms. Ressa. Under Philippine law, tax evasion penalties carry maximum 10 years imprisonment and fines.
“In light of past measures taken against Rappler, I am concerned that the charges of tax evasion constitute an attempt to silence the news outlet’s independent reporting,” Kaye said. “This is a serious threat against independent and investigative journalism in the Philippines, and will have implications beyond its borders.”
On 29 November 2018, Rappler and Maria Ressa learned that a separate tax evasion case had been filed against them at the Pasig Regional Trial Court on 14 November. This charge claimed that Rappler failed to supply accurate information in its Value Added Tax return in 2015. Following an arrest warrant, Maria Ressa turned herself into the authorities on 3 December 2018. She was set free on a bail of 60,000 pesos, or about $1,100.
Earlier this year, UN experts raised concern at the moves made by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines to revoke Rappler’s licence for ownership violations.
Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
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