Maria Ressa, a Filipino journalist, was cleared of tax evasion allegations

Let’s turn our attention to the Philippines where a court has acquitted journalist Maria Rissa and her online news Outlet wrapper of tax evasion charges Marissa was a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago but she globally recognized reporting on her nation’s violent anti-drug campaign made her an enemy of former president Rodrigo duterte.

It’s not the end of the war for Nobel Prize winner Maria ressa but she has won a significant battle foreign speaking outside court she struggled to hold back tears. But day facts win truth wins Justice wins ressa co-founded the online news site rappler and used it to expose Philippines president Rodrigo duterte’s alleged abuse of power and growing authoritarianism duterte tried to discredit rappler ressa says he weaponized the Philippines Judicial System against her.

Her Associate the 59-year-old has been battling a series of cases filed due to her vocal criticism of the former president’s charges you know were politically motivated they were incredible to us a Brazen abuse of power.

Filipino journalist
Filipino journalist (Image source: YouTube)

Meant to stop journalists from doing their jobs she still faces three other criminal cases including a cyber libel conviction currently on appeal for which he could be sentenced to nearly seven years in prison and we’re joined now from Manila by Maria ressa Mr Essa thank you for taking the time to speak to us on DW, first of all, congratulations you have been facing these charges for four years.

So how do you feel after the acquittal oh my Lord I mean four years and two months you know it’s um I had hoped this would be what it is I it would have taken a stretch of the imagination to have made it a conviction.

But there was a lot at stake not just for rappler and the Philippines but in terms of what this meant for our development for rule of law for press Freedom how do I feel like the sun is coming.

But we know unfortunately, you’re not completely out of the woods yet you are still facing a number of other charges that could possibly lead to Long prison terms if you are convicted do you expect to be acquitted on these charges too there were seven criminal charges that I was facing on the when the Marcos Administration came in they were all initiated under the duterte administration in less than two years.

I posted bail ten times right 10 or less warrants, of course, this is the very first time since 2016 that we actually won a case on you know as you can read the decision pretty ludicrous charges does this mean it’s the end of it not yet.

But it is a really good beginning for us we hope that with these four tax evasion charges thrown out there’s a fifth one that’s related to it we’ll hope to get a similar verdict in that one and then cyber libel has moved the fastest it’s at the Supreme Court now again a I hope for the best well in the past you’ve said that the Philippines legal system has been weaponized against you.

At the same time you’ve also criticized the role that’s played by social media in trying to demonize you can you explain what you mean by that I think this Works hand in hand what we saw beginning in 2016 was the weaponization of social media it’s almost like fertilizer that’s put in place before the attacks come top down.

So the lies come out you bottom up on social media in our case journalist equals criminal you say that lie a million times it becomes a fact and here’s the other part on social media it’s we already know from 2018 studies that lie spread at least six times faster on social media than these really boring facts that journalists give.

So this is kind of the fertilizer on the ground a year of that than a year later top-down from president duterte himself who repeated the meta-narrative journalist equals criminal a week later we received our first subpoena by 2018 we got a shutdown order and then it went 14 investigations that year by 2019 10 arrest warrants in less than two years and here we are today we’re still fighting.

We’re still doing our jobs gosh 10 arrests and warrants in two years all of this must take a real physical and also emotional toll on you how are you coping embrace your fear this is a phrase I wound up using a lot it’s something I explained in my book how to stand up to a dictator look I think when the government uses the law against journalists as a way to stop journalism.

They hang a demonic sword over the news organization and our goal always was to make sure that we continue doing our jobs like that wasn’t there and you know during the duterte administration starting in 2016 it almost felt like they were using a bulldozer to try to stop us from carrying out our jobs you know he this is the line that’s defined by our constitution we link to arms and the phrase.

We kept using holds the line right we were not gonna voluntarily give up our rights and it was something I used to say to Filipino citizens if you are being harassed or intimidated hold tight Hold the Line journalist Maria ressa joining us from Manila thank you so much for your time thank you.

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