PPF concerned over harassment of Philippine news website Rappler

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), in a letter to Rodrigo Duterte, President of Philippines has expressed concern over the charges of tax evasion against the news website Rappler, its founder and journalist Maria Ressa.

PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali has called on the authorities in Philippine to end its campaign of judicial harassment, targeting a news website and stop attacking journalists and media organizations for doing their job.

According to Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Rappler with tax evasion over the sale of its Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to two foreign bodies in 2015. Along with the organization, its founder Ressa and its independent accountant Noel Baldiang were also charged.

On November 9, a statement of DOJ USec. Mark Perete released, which stated that the National Prosecution Service (NPS) has ruled in the favor of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in criminal complaint against Rappler for an attempt to escape and reverse tax and failure to supply exact and accurate information provided by the Philippine tax code.

According to BIR, the news website earned PHP162.5-million from the transaction but failed to declare it in its tax return.

In a statement Ressa stated, “This is the clear intimidation and harassment. The government is wasting its energy and resources in an attempt to silence reporting that is not in the favor of administration.”

Atty. Francis Lim, lawyers of Rapplers, claimed that the capital raised form distributed PDRs are not yet booked as income.

This is not the first time that authorities are targeting online media outlets. In January 2018 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced to cancel Rappler’s license for violating a ban on foreign ownership of media organizations, allegedly claiming that, by issuing PDRs to raise funds, it had sold some of its stock to foreign investors.