“We are not at all surprised by the decision, considering how the Duterte administration has been treating Rappler for its independent and fearless reporting,” Rappler said in statement.
Officials said Rappler and Ressa failed to declare about $3 million in 2015 on tax returns from an investment by the 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.
Rappler has not shied away from critical reporting about Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, closely documenting his so-called “war on drugs,” a widespread crackdown which has been condemned for encouraging thousands of extrajudicial killings.
In January, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) temporarily revoked Rappler’s registration on the basis that it had violated the country’s constitution over foreign ownership rules.
At the time, Ressa said: “We need to continue. What we say at Rappler is, ‘we going to hold the line.’ We’re not doing anything but journalism. We’re speaking truth to power. That’s what we do.”
Awarded for ‘intrepid’ reporting
The day before Friday’s announcement of tax evasion charges, Ressa was in the US to accept a Knight International Journalism Award from the International Committee for Journalists (ICFJ).
Internet freedom declining
The report now categorizes the country as “Partly Free,” partly due to the “harassment of dissenting voices.”
Earlier this year, leading human rights activists urged the government to stop attempts to shut down Rappler.
“Rappler’s work rests on its own freedom to impart information, and more importantly its vast readership to have access to its public interest reporting,” said the statement, signed by David Kaye, Michel Forst and Agnes Callamard.
On Saturday, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, tweeted the January statement and added: “(Duterte’s) been trying to intimidate @rapplerdotcom for a long time.”