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UN expert welcomes verdict on Maria Ressa’s tax evasion case

19 January 2023

GENEVA (19 January 2023) – The UN expert on freedom of expression today welcomed the decision by a Philippines’ court to acquit journalist and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and the Rappler news outlet of tax evasion charges.

“The acquittal of Maria Ressa and Rappler is a victory for media freedom as well as justice,” said Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression and opinion.

“Journalistic work, especially journalistic expression about public and political issues, is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression and guaranteed by international human rights law,” Khan said.

Ressa and Rappler were charged by the former administration in the Philippines of evading tax payments after the news outlet raised foreign funding. If convicted, the Nobel laureate would have faced up to 10 years imprisonment and fines. Maria Ressa and Rappler denied the charges and said the transactions involved legitimate financial mechanisms.

Noting that Maria Ressa continues to face several other charges, including for cyber libel, Khan called on the authorities to withdraw all charges against her.

“I urge the government to abolish criminal libel, which has no place in a democracy,” Khan said.

The Special Rapporteur has been in touch with the Government on this matter for several years.

ENDS

*Ms. Irene Khan was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on 17 July 2020. Ms Khan is the first woman to hold this position since the establishment of the mandate in 1993. She teaches at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and was previously Secretary General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009 and head of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) from 2012 to 2019.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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Dharisha Indraguptha
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