Journalist critical of Philippines’ Duterte pays bail

Maria Ressa’s (pictured) Rappler has been hit by a string of government efforts to shut it down since the site took a critical tone on Duterte. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 December 2018

Journalist critical of Philippines’ Duterte pays bail

  • Maria Ressa’s Rappler has been hit by a string of government efforts to shut it down
  • Ressa surrendered to a Manila court on Monday, posted the equivalent of $1,100

MANILA: The journalist who leads a news site that has battled Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte paid a cash bail Monday on a tax fraud charge she says is an effort to intimidate the publication.
Maria Ressa’s Rappler has been hit by a string of government efforts to shut it down since the site took a critical tone on Duterte, in particular his internationally condemned drug war that has killed thousands.
Ressa surrendered to a Manila court on Monday, posted the equivalent of $1,100 and was ordered to return Friday for arraignment on charges that Rappler provided false information to tax authorities.
“They (the charges) are politically motivated and... they are manufactured,” she told journalists outside court. “Rappler pays the right taxes.”
Campaigners condemned the charge, which is one of several tax fraud cases the government filed against Rappler and Ressa last week while she was out of the country.
The charges are “part of the Duterte administration’s campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics,” said Human Rights Watch Philippines researcher Carlos Conde.
“The attacks on Rappler are consistent with the way the Duterte administration has treated other ‘drug war’ critics,” he said.
Duterte bristles at criticism of his signature campaign to rid the nation of drugs, which police say has killed nearly 5,000 alleged dealers and users who resisted arrest.
Some of the crackdown’s highest profile critics have wound up behind bars, including Senator Leila de Lima, who is jailed on drug charges she insists were fabricated to silence her.
The government accuses Rappler Holdings Corp., Ressa and the site’s accountant of failing to pay taxes on 2015 bond sales that it alleges netted gains of 162.5 million pesos ($3 million).
The bonds, called Philippine Depositary Receipts, are at the heart of a case that led the Philippines’ corporate watchdog to void the news site’s corporate license in January.
Duterte has also attacked other media outfits that criticize him, including top newspaper, The Philippine Daily Inquirer and major broadcaster ABS-CBN, threatening to also go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes.
The government said the charges were the consequence of wrongdoing, not retribution. “You violate tax laws, then you will be prosecuted,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters.


Second French academic detained in Iran since June

Updated 16 October 2019

Second French academic detained in Iran since June

PARIS: A prominent French academic has been in detention in Iran since June, when he was arrested with his Franco-Iranian colleague, a researchers’ group and the French foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Roland Marchal, a sociologist whose research focuses on civil wars in Africa, and Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist, both work at the Sciences Po university in Paris.
The FASOPO association, of which they are both members, announced Marchal’s detention on its website, saying it had remained quiet about his arrest at the request of French authorities until the story was reported on Tuesday by Le Figaro newspaper.
The association said “discretion had seemed preferable to the French authorities, who immediately began working, at the highest level, to obtain the liberation of our colleagues...”
The French government, it said, had wished to prevent the issue becoming a reason for “nationalist flare-up” in Tehran.
The foreign ministry in a statement confirmed Marchal’s detention and said it strongly condemned his arrest.
“We are mobilized to obtain his release,” it said, adding Marchal had received several consular visits.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to be transparent and act without delay to put an end to this unacceptable situation,” the ministry added.
FASOPO said it had alerted French authorities to the pair’s disappearance on June 25.
The association said it supported the government’s decision to keep quiet given the experience of foreign colleagues “who found themselves in the same situation” and who had found Western media reporting “either useless or, worse, counter-productive.”
Adelkhah’s arrest was confirmed by Tehran on July 16. The reason for her detention has not been made public.
Paris has repeatedly requested that she be given consular access and set free. Iranian authorities, who do not recognize dual nationality, had railed against the “unacceptable interference” of France in the matter.
FASOPO said Marchal was arrested after arriving in Iran from Dubai to celebrate the Muslim Eid feast with Adelkhah.
It said he was known “for his strong stances that reflect his uncompromising quest for intellectual honesty and humanistic values.”
Iranian-born Adelkhah is a specialist on Shia Islam who has written extensively on Iran and Afghanistan.
The arrests came as President Emmanuel Macron conducts intense diplomacy to find a way of keeping alive the 2015 nuclear deal which limits Iran’s atomic program.
Iran has several dual nationals and Western passport holders in detention.
They include British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who has been jailed in Tehran since 2016 on sedition charges, causing major tensions with Britain.