Embattled journalist Maria Ressa talks with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World about how the COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered President Rodrigo Duterte's authoritarian approach to governing the Philippines, and how the lockdown there has sparked a social movement among citizens. Duterte's order to kill those breaking quarantine rules, she says, "fueled Filipinos who are stuck at home to go out online, and for the first time, the day after President Duterte said that, #oustDutertenow trended number one overnight and globally as well."
As Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, CEO of the online news agency Rappler, faces charges that could potentially lead to 100 years in prison, she talks with Ian Bremmer about the case that has made her a global advocate for press freedom. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines targeted her and Rappler as he manages the nation under "the 3C's: corrupt, coerce, co-opt," she says.
Ian Bremmer talks to embattled Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, CEO of the online news agency Rappler. Ressa and her team have been involved in a years-long legal battle that challenges press freedoms and free speech in the Philippines, as President Rodrigo Duterte continues to assert authoritarian control in his nation. In the conversation Ressa details the ongoing court battles that have her facing up to 100 years in prison if convicted. She also discusses Duterte's militaristic approach to COVID-19 response, and then issues strong warnings about social media's role in promulgating hate speech globally.
On the latest episode of the GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer talks to embattled Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, CEO of the online news agency Rappler. Ressa and her team have been involved in a years-long legal battle that challenges press freedoms and free speech in the Philippines, as President Rodrigo Duterte continues to assert authoritarian control in his nation. In the conversation Ressa details the ongoing court battles that have her facing up to 100 years in prison if convicted. She also discusses Duterte's militaristic approach to COVID-19 response, and then issues strong warnings about social media's role in promulgating hate speech globally.
Facebook allows "lies laced with anger and hate" to spread faster than facts, says journalist Maria Ressa
In a new interview with Ian Bremmer for GZERO World, embattled Filipina journalist and CEO Maria Ressa issues strong warnings about social media companies, and Facebook in particular, for their inability or unwillingness to control hate speech online. Ressa, who runs the online news site Rappler, has been involved in a prolonged legal battle in the Philippines that threatens press freedom and free speech in that nation.
The fight has been fueled, she says, by a weaponization of social media."Facebook and other social media platforms allow lies laced with anger and hate to spread faster and further than facts, which are really boring," she says.
The conversation, part of the latest episode of GZERO World, also focuses on her ongoing case and how, she says, President Rodrigo Duterte has used the COVID-19 pandemic to further his authoritarian agenda in the Philippines. The episode begins airing nationally on US public television Friday, July 17. Check local listings.
Ever since the rough-spoken populist Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines in 2016, journalists have warned that his open disdain for the media would put press freedom in the country at risk.
On Monday, those fears were underscored when the authorities found Maria Ressa, an internationally-renowned journalist and fierce critic of Duterte's, guilty of libel under the country's cybercrimes law.
What's the back story? In 2012, the online news site Rappler, which Ressa heads, published an article linking a local businessman to illegal activities, citing an unnamed intelligence report. A Manila judged ruled that the article violated the libel provisions in a 2012 cybercrime law. But the story was actually published four months before that law even came into effect. The authorities cited a 2014 update to the article — merely to fix a series of typos — as justification for throwing the book at Ressa. Even then, the charges weren't filed until 2017.
Critics say the case against Ressa and Rappler is politically motivated. Duterte is no fan of journalists in general, but he has singled out Rappler over its coverage of his popular but bloody war on drugs. He has accused the news site of being a CIA front, and said Ressa is part of a conspiracy to topple the administration. The abuse was so bad that in 2018, TIME included Ressa among the journalists named Person of the Year for defying attacks on the press.
Ressa, for her part, has repeatedly warned that Duterte is weaponizing political institutions, as well as social media, to stifle dissent. Last year, she told GZERO Media that she feared the consequences of Duterte's allies winning control over the Senate, one of the last checks on his power. The cybercrime law has proven to be a powerful tool. A new anti-terror law — which allows detaining alleged "terrorists" for up to 24 days without a judicial warrant — will soon be approved as well.
Ressa's conviction also has wider implications for press freedom in the Philippines. Before the ruling, the Philippines had already slipped two places in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index to 136 among 180 countries, and it has already fallen 11 spots from where it was in the first full year of Duterte's presidency. Last month the government shuttered the country's top television network. Ressa's fate will make Filipino journalists even more hesitant to hold the government accountable.
This is part of a troubling global trend. Press freedom is under threat around the world. Not only in authoritarian countries, but in once-vibrant democracies – like the Philippines – where populist leaders are eroding institutions. The watchdog Freedom House has found that over the past five years, press freedom has declined in 16 of the world's freest countries.
What will happen to Ressa? She faces up to six years in prison, but will remain free while her appeal winds its way through the labyrinthine Philippine justice system. But things don't get any easier: Ressa and Rappler are also facing another 7 active charges.
Disclaimer: The author of this story is a former employee of Rappler.
Isabelle speaks with Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler, one of the leading online news organizations in the Philippines. Ressa was honored in 2018 as a Person of the Year by Time for her efforts and impact combating fake news.
Is global press freedom under attack and how?
As early as November 2017, we saw the studies: Freedom House came out and said in 27 countries around the world, cheap armies on social media are tearing down democracy, rolling back democracy. The year after that, the Oxford Computational Propaganda Project said that number went up — doubled. It's a very difficult time with technology which once empowered, now is being used to tear down, is being used to replace facts with fiction, is being used to create alternative realities. We've heard these words, "fake news" right? It's a time when journalists have to come together and fight for the facts, because facts lead to truth and truth leads to trust.
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