“Here’s what she said.”
Last Tuesday, I wrote about how Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize honors all Filipinos of good will. Her speech in Oslo last Friday as she accepted the award confirms my view that not only does she deserve this award together with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, but that thus was the right and critical moment for these two great journalists to be given this recognition.
As Maria eloquently stated, at the beginning of her speech: “I stand before you, a representative of every journalist around the world who is forced to sacrifice so much to hold the line, to stay true to our values and mission: to bring you the truth and hold power to account.” After citing several journalists who have been killed, attacked, or arrested in many parts of the world, Maria then turned to the Philippines and pointed to the detention of Tacloban based journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, still in prison after nearly two years, and the brutal assassination of Jess Malabanan, who worked among others for this paper and was killed with a bullet to his head. Incredibly, Undersecretary Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco of Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) dismissed the latter’s death as probably not related to Malabanan’s work as a journalist.
Maria was also kind enough to mention my profession, citing that more lawyers have been killed than journalists in the Philippines—at least 63 compared to the 22 journalists murdered after President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016. She also pointed to how Karapatan, a human rights organization, has had 16 people killed, and how Senator Leila de Lima, because she demanded accountability, is serving her fifth year in jail. Of course, she would also highlight ABS-CBN, our largest broadcaster, a newsroom that she once led, which, last year, lost its franchise to operate.
Maria then shared the story of Rappler, now ten years old and which I have been a part of as a source for many of its reporters, a thought leader who publishes articles frequently, and as a board member since 2018. According to Maria:
“I helped create a startup, Rappler, turning 10 years old in January—we’re getting old—our attempt to put together two sides of the same coin that shows everything wrong with our world today: the absence of law and democratic vision for the 21st century. That coin represents our information ecosystem, which determines everything else about our world. Journalists—that’s one side—the old gatekeepers. The other is technology, with its god-like power, the new gatekeepers. It has allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger, hate, and setting the stage for the rise of authoritarians and dictators around the world.
“Our greatest need today is to transform that hate and violence, the toxic sludge that’s coursing through our information ecosystem, prioritized by American internet companies that make more money by spreading that hate and triggering the worst in us. Well, that just means we have to work harder. In order to be the good, we have to believe there is good in the world.”
Maria shared her own story as a journalist for more than 35 years: “I’ve worked in conflict zones and war zones in Asia, reported on hundreds of disasters, and while I have seen so much bad, I have also documented so much good, when people who have nothing offer you what they have. Part of how we at Rappler have survived the last five years of government attacks is because of the kindness of strangers, and the reason they help— despite the danger—is because they want to, with little expectation of anything in return. This is the best of who we are, the part of our humanity that makes miracles happen. This is what we lose in a world of fear and violence.”
Maria recalled the last time a journalist, Carl von Ossietzky, was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936, awarded in 1935 but who never made it to Oslo because of the Nazi government in Germany:
“By giving this to journalists today —thank you—the Nobel committee is signaling a similar historical moment, another existential point for democracy. Dmitry and I are lucky because we can speak to you now (Yay for court approvals)! “But there are so many more journalists persecuted in the shadows with neither exposure nor support, and governments are doubling down with impunity. The accelerant is technology, when creative destruction takes new meaning.”
Maria quoted from David Beasley, who heads last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, the World Food Programme: “We are standing on the rubble of the world that was, and we must have the foresight and courage to imagine what might happen if we don’t act now, and instead, please, create the world as it should be—more compassionate, more equal, more sustainable.”
Next Tuesday, I will write what we are up against, according to the first Filipina individual to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
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