TOMORROW, THE COURTS in Manila will decide on one of the eleven charges hurled against the indestructible Rappler Co-Founder and soul MariaA. Resa (56).
Maria Ressa is one of the most vocal critics of Duterte’s “Drug War” and the “fake news” of the paid-hack trolls. Under attack by Duterte’s allies, Maria Ressa also has her share of big supporters in Madeline Albright, former US Secretary of State and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of actor George.among many others.
Ressa is not an ordinary pesky mosquito in the Duterte tent because the world listens when she speaks. She was voted one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year”(2018) and Time’s 2019 “100 Most Influential People in the World” and 2019 BBC “!00 Top Global Women”. The late president Cory Aquino was the only other Filipino so named in that elite ranking.
Maria Ressa was Bureau Chief of the world-class news organization CNN for Manila and Jakarta from (1995-2005) and head of AB S CBN’s News Division from 2005 to 2010. In 2012 she co-founded Rappler in Manila.
She has been arrested twice, detained once, and has paid a total of P 3-M in bail payments for her temporary freedom in 14 months. On Monday, she may or may not land in jail.
But Ressa, like courageous men like martyred hero Ninoy Aquino, has “learned to confront and then embrace my fears- even to touch them and I will not be surprised.” She is as ready to spend time in jail as she is ready to order the next scathing investigative article against the strong-armed government of Duterte.
Maria Ressa has been invited to speaking engagements all over the world and so as not to dilute the essence of her gems of thoughts, we will quote and quote her as she defends her chosen profession against the assaults of the enemies of free speech. Here are some of them:
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all. This is the existential moment in time when, ifwe do not take the right steps- democracy as we know it is dead.
When journalists are under attack, democracy is under attack. Social media platforms are now the world’s largest distributors of news. But while they have taken the revenues, they have ignored the gatekeeping powers that news organizations have traditionally had.
It takes courage to fight back against the insidious manipulation these platforms have enabled. They’re now used as a weapon against journalists – where lies, anger, and hate spread faster than facts ( Facts are kinda boring).
The battle for truth is the battle of our generation. With technology as the accelerant, a lie told a million times becomes a fact.
But without facts, we don’t have the truth. Without truth, there is no trust. Without all three, you can’t have a democracy.
This is how a nation loses its soul. So, you have to know what values you are fighting for and you have to draw the lines now; when this side you’re good; and this side you’re evil. Help us #HoldTheLine.
But people (sometimes) are afraid to stand up for what’s right because there are costs. Rappler in the Philippines is a cautionary tale- as one of my arresting officers said it last when he was trying to silence our young reporter who was live streaming-”Be quiet- or you’re next.”
(And we fight) – It’s not just the journalists- let’s bring in academia, technology, civil society- the truth-tellers. We have to join forces to protect the facts.
Power- and bullies- will never stop if you give in to them. Political bullies who threaten and abuse journalists are never happy until they see total capitulation.
Thus, we battle both impunities from government and Facebook- both seek violence, hate, and lies- that poison our democracy.
The battle for the truth is at the heart of protecting our democracies. Information-is power- but propaganda has always been around. But technology has escalated it at a scale I could not have imagined. At the heart of it is the creative destruction of our information ecosystem.
Attacks online against journalists and activists around the world are personal, psychological, and meant to pound us to silence. (For instance, I get 90 personal attacks on my phone in just one hour).
They call it “patriotic trolling”-online and state-sponsored hate targeting those who question power and who are perceived as critics.
Journalism, like all industries, needs “courage”. Journalism needs leaders who go in while others are leaving. It’s staying with the story.
The second is “inner courage” or self-control- fighting against your own anger and fear- now, more than ever- because that’s what’s being attacked. When you’re a leader, you can’t afford to lose that.
Conflict reporting requires the presence of mind and clarity of thought. You can’t do that if you’re lost in emotions or are blinking when things go wrong.
Courage has kept me through- speaking against injustice, abuse of power and taking a position based on principles. Journalists face two problems today.
One is how geopolitical powers are using technology to manipulate facts and alter reality. Second is the current media business model is dead. The lion’s share of digital advertising spending goes to technology platforms – the same companies used to attack against the truth and journalists.
We must find a new business model using technologies we used to find disinformation networks. Then use data to fight back.”
Tomorrow, the nation will find out if this growing pint-sized national treasure named MariaA. Ressa is spending jail time or not.
Given the volatile atmosphere engendered by anger and pessimism brought by the pandemic, recent perceived assaults on freedom, abuse of authority, and double standards of justice and accountability- any one of the recent events could provide a tipping point for something we may not be prepared for.
So, brace for them. So, we are not surprised.
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