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Philippines court convicts top journalist — what comes next?

Over a year ago, we reported on Maria Ressa's conviction for cyber-libel in the Philippines. While her appeal works its way through the country's byzantine justice system, today she won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. Below is our original piece published on June 15, 2020.

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.

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Maria Ressa, the CEO of online news platform Rappler, speaks to the media after posting bail at a Manila Regional Trial Court in Manila City.

REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Maria Ressa: Fearless and fair

The last time I saw my former boss Maria Ressa, about three years ago in New York, she wasn't worried about being arrested upon her return to the Philippines. Her friends and family had told her to consider staying in America, as she's a dual citizen after growing up in New Jersey. But she thought it was her duty to go back to Manila and continue doing her job as CEO of independent news site Rappler.

She wasn't arrested that time for her role in Rappler updating an old article deemed by a judge to be retroactively libelous. But she was detained in February 2019 over the same charge, and again a month later for allegedly violating a ban on foreign ownership of the media. Maria got out on bail both times, but that wasn't the end of her legal troubles.

In June 2020, she was convicted of cyber-libel, and now faces up to 100 years in prison under a very loose and retroactive interpretation of the law that's been panned as an attack on press freedom.

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Maria Ressa on Duterte’s Order to “Shoot Them Dead” | Militarization of COVID Response | GZERO Media

Maria Ressa on Filipino reaction to Duterte government's militarized COVID response

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."

“I am a cautionary tale for journalists” | Maria Ressa on Her Legal Battle | GZERO Media

“I am a cautionary tale for journalists": Maria Ressa on her legal battle

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.

Journalism on Trial | Maria Ressa in Duterte's Philippines | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Journalism on trial in the Philippines: interview with Maria Ressa

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.

Podcast: Journalism on Trial in the Philippines with Maria Ressa


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 Spreads "Lies Laced with Anger and Hate" Faster Than Facts: Maria Ressa | GZERO WORLD

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.

Maria Ressa on Global Press Freedom: Media in 60 Seconds

Maria Ressa on Global Press Freedom: Media in 60 Seconds

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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