Mary Wald

/ forwarding the messages that build a better world

Nobel Peace Prize Lauraetes Urge Marcos to Ensure Justice for Maria Ressa

Philippine journalist and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa and her online news site, Rappler, were subjected to a multi-pronged and sustained attack from multiple government agencies in her home country, initiated under the administration of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. These attacks, including multiple false criminal charges, have threatened to imprison Maria, with a combined maximum sentence of 100 years, and shut down her online news site, Rappler.

On Wednesday, January 18, 2023, the Philippine Court of Tax Appeals acquitted Ressa and Rappler of four of the charges against her, of tax evasion and failure to provide full information to the tax authorities in corporate filings. The charges were based on filings by the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) with the Department of Justice in 2018 that claimed Rappler was not a news site at all but was a “seller if securities” for having brought private investment into the company.

This was only the beginning. The charges wer followed by more trials on other spurious charges, including being a “foreign agent,” based on Rappler having received investment from private individuals who are not citizens of the Philippines.

In June, 2020, Ressa former and Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted of cyber libel. These criminal charges resulted from a Rappler article suggesting that a Philippine businessman had inappropriate financial ties to a Supreme Court Judge. Ressa was sentenced to more than six years in prison. She is currently out on bail while waiting for the case to come before the Supreme Court. It should be noted that the article was published before the law criminalizing cyber law was written into law. The law was applied “retroactively.”

Twelve Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Ressa’s 2021 co-recipient Dmitri Muratov, and the three 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates — Ukrainian human rights leader Oleksandra Matvichuk, head of Russia’s Memorial Jan Rachinsky, and Belarus political prisoner Ales Bialiatski represented by his wife, Natalia Pichuk — spoke out in an open letter to President Marcos, urging the President to bring these unjust attacks to an end and restore freedom of the press, a bedrock of democracy, in the Philippines.

Maria’s co-recipient of the 2021 Nobel, Dmitri Muratov, taped a video in support of the letter. 

The letter was covered on the front page of the New York Times.

Maria was acquitted of all charges.

Read the letter and see the signatories

Read New York Times coverage