Duterte critic vows to fight charges

World | REUTERS 4 Dec 2018

A Philippine court on Monday granted bail to the top executive of a news website critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's policies after she was indicted of tax evasion charges, a case she has described as "politically motivated."

The Department of Justice in October indicted Maria Ressa, and online news platform Rappler, for attempting to evade taxes by not reporting gains of almost US$3 million (HK$23.4 million) in the company's 2015 tax returns.

The court set her arraignment for Friday.

Rappler has challenged Duterte frequently, questioning the accuracy of his public statements and scrutinizing his war on drugs and his foreign policies.

In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked the website's operating license for violating foreign ownership rules. Duterte's office has since banned Rappler from covering his official activities.

"More than his inability to tolerate dissent, Duterte's relentless persecution of media appears to be part of the increasingly authoritarian direction his presidency has taken," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement on Sunday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded that the charges against Ressa and her news organization be dropped, calling the case "part of the Duterte administration's campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics."

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