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Philippines announces charges against critical news site

AFP  |  Manila 

Philippine prosecutors said Friday they will file tax evasion charges against a website that has clashed with Rodrigo Duterte, a case the outlet branded as an "intimidation" effort.

Rappler, which denies the allegations, is one of few Philippine openly critical of Duterte's leadership, in particular his deadly anti-narcotics crackdown.

The government accuses Rappler Holdings Corp., the site's and its of failing to pay taxes on 2015 bond sales that it alleges netted gains of 162.5 million pesos (USD 3 million).

"The has found probable cause to indict... for violation of the national Internal Revenue Code," the justice department said in a statement.

told AFP that state prosecutors are to file the tax evasion charges in court next week.

Rappler described the case as "a clear form of continuing intimidation and harassment" as well as "an attempt to silence reporting that does not please the administration".

The bonds, called Philippine Depositary Receipts, are at the heart of a case that led to the Philippines' corporate watchdog to void the site's corporate license in January.

Rappler has been battling a string of government moves to shutter the site, which has won international awards over its efforts to publish critical reports on

The banned a Rappler from covering his official activities, calling its reports "twisted".

Press watchdogs have criticised the government actions as payback for coverage that challenges Duterte's signature crackdown that has resulted in police shooting dead alleged pushers and addicts.

To ease the pressure on Rappler, a key foreign backer, Silicon Valley firm Omidyar Network, announced in February it was donating its investments worth about USD 1.5 million to the site's local managers.

The Philippines' constitution forbids foreigners from owning in the southeast Asian nation of 105 million people.

In March an appellate court ruled that Rappler must be given "a reasonable time" to correct or modify objectionable portions of its corporate structure, a decision that allowed the website to continue operations for the time being.

has also attacked other that criticise him, including top newspaper, The and major broadcaster ABS-CBN, threatening to also go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, November 09 2018. 18:35 IST