By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – The International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific region today joined the call to end the tax evasion case against Rappler co-founder Philippine journalist Maria Ressa. Trial for Ressa’s alleged tax evasion will be heard on July 22 in Manila.
The IFJ is currently part of the #HoldTheLine coalition that is coordinating the response to support Ressa who has consistently faced legal persecution from the Philippines government.
Simon Beck, IFJ Projects and Communications Coordinator for Asia Pacific, said that based on the information from the coalition, most of the case against Ressa relies on the allegation that Rappler is connected to foreign investment and ownership, which is “flawed”.
The #HoldTheLine coalition is also seeking diplomatic pressure from the EU and the US on the side of the beleaguered journalist. It has raised its voice to:
1. Call for the tax case on July 22 to be thrown out.
2. Allow Ressa to participate remotely in the trial. There is a public health issue of Ressa appearing in court in person – Ressa should have the opportunity to participate remotely
3. Look at the case as flawed and relies on foreign ownership laws to prove tax evasion for a media company in the Philippines.
Concern for the growing authoritarianism in the Philippines is mounting, especially when the Philippines is reeling against and covid19 pandemic and wide scale poverty and corruption. Pres. Duterte recently signed the Anti Terrorism Act which human rights advocates accused as an infringement of human rights and due process, maintaining that there is enough law in the Philippines curbing criminality. Last week, the Philippine Congress denied the renewal of the franchise ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest TV network.
The Philippine government maintains that the ATA is not directed against human rights activists and that ABS-CBN and Rappler had both not complied with the requirements of the law. # (Photos courtesy of IFJ)