Philippine Supreme Court allows Nobel laureate Ressa to travel abroad briefly

Aie Balagtas See
Philippine Supreme Court allows Nobel laureate Ressa to travel abroad briefly Nobel laureate and journalist Maria Ressa speaks to reporters outside the Court of Tax Appeals in Quezon City, Philippines, Jan. 18, 2023.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The Philippine Supreme Court has granted Nobel laureate and journalist Maria Ressa’s plea to be allowed to travel abroad for speaking engagements as she appeals her cyber-libel conviction.

The court granted her appeal last week, allowing her to travel from March 13 to April 1, on the condition that she not discuss the case in which a regional court found her guilty in June 2020.

“Petitioner Ressa was, among others, ordered to observe the sub judice rule and to refrain from making any comment on or discussing in public her case and other related matters, and to travel on the cash bond of 100,000 pesos (U.S. $1,816) she previously posted pursuant to an earlier Resolution of the Court,” the high court said in a statement.

In addition, Ressa was required to notify the court in writing within five days of her return. She did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment.

Ressa, a co-founder of news site Rappler, was expected to visit Canada, France, South Korea and the United States. She and Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. are free on bail as they appeal their conviction.

The verdict stemmed from a 2017 complaint filed by local businessman Wilfredo Keng against Ressa and Santos Jr. for what Keng alleged was a 2012 article that libeled him. The court ruled that Ressa and Santos had maligned Keng’s reputation.

More recently, Ressa, a fierce critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte, was acquitted on four counts of tax-related charges by the first division of the Court of Tax Appeals in January.

Those charges alleged the news website Rappler evaded tax payments when it raised capital through its partnership with two foreign investors. Rappler issued local financial instruments, known as Philippine Depository Receipts (PDR), to the two investors in 2015.

Prior to the tax cases, the Philippine Securities Exchange Commission had ordered Rappler to shut down for allegedly violating constitutional rules on foreign media ownership. The news website argued that it was fully owned by Filipinos and that the PDRs did not give the investors voting rights or ownership.

Ressa shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov, a newspaper editor in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in recognition of “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition of democracy and lasting peace.”

The Philippine government allowed Ressa to travel to Oslo to accept the prize.


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