Rappler's Maria Ressa: Stripping of license is political

Philippine news site Rappler and company chief face tax evasion charges

Rappler's Maria Ressa and Chay Hofilena at a January news briefing.

Prosecutors “found probable cause” to indict Rappler Holdings Corp., its president, Maria Ressa, and certified public accountant Noel Baladiang, the department said in a statement.

The company and Ressa run the popular online media site Rappler, which has faced criticism from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ressa is CEO and executive editor of the site and a former CNN bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Department of Justice said Rappler and Ressa failed to declare about $3 million in 2015 on tax returns from an investment by Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. The investment was touted by Rappler in November 2015 as a partnership that created “an ‘inclusive media’ platform that blends professional journalism, technology and the wisdom of the crowd.”

In a statement Friday, Rappler said, “We are not at all surprised by the decision, considering how the Duterte administration has been treating Rappler for its independent and fearless reporting.”

In a separate case, the Philippine Securities Exchange Commission temporarily revoked Rappler’s operating license in January. The commission accused Rappler of violating the constitution over foreign ownership rules with share sales to Omidyar Network.

At the time, a spokesman for Duterte told CNN Philippines the President had “nothing to do with the SEC decision.”

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