The Interview – Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize: “Being a journalist has become increasingly dangerous”

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Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, gave an exclusive interview to France 24. Co-founder of the news site ‘Rappler’ and critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, this 58-year-old Filipino-American reporter highlights that the journalist’s work is increasingly dangerous and insists on the importance of being able to counter misinformation.

Maria Ressa has been accused of fraud, tax evasion and even receiving money from the CIA. She was found guilty of defamation and could spend years in jail, but is currently out on bail pending an appeal.

The Filipino reporter was the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize thanks to what the award committee called “her courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines.”

With 58 years, this journalist has become a stone in the shoe for President Rodrigo Duterte and through his digital news outlet ‘Rappler’ has pointed out the corruption of the Government and the brutal war on drugs carried out in the country . All while facing a campaign that seeks to silence not only her, but also her portal.

In conversation with France 24 from Manila, when asked if journalism is becoming more dangerous around the world, Ressa replied: “Just doing what journalists have always done is more dangerous, it requires more sacrifices.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winner also raised concerns about misinformation in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections in the Philippines. “This election will be a battle for facts. American social media platforms will play an essential role if they do not set a limit on algorithmic dissemination,” he commented.

Without the facts you cannot have the truth. Without the truth you cannot have confidence. Without trust nothing is possible

More generally, Ressa sounded the alarm about the role of social media companies in the world. “The problem is that social networks, Facebook, which is the largest news distributor in the world, is governed by algorithms that, in reality, through this research, it is seen that it spreads lies mixed with anger and hatred, faster and more far from the facts themselves. Our news is distributed through a platform biased against the facts and biased against journalists. Without the facts you cannot have the truth. Without the truth you cannot have confidence. Without trust nothing is possible ” , he assures.

Maria Ressa. © AFP

When asked if political discourse by populist leaders like Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte would have changed the political debate, especially on social media, Ressa claimed that the world at large had changed in fundamental ways.

Even though Trump is temporarily off Facebook, he changed the tone of public discourse in the United States. President Duterte has changed the tone of the speech as well. That kind of divisive leadership that works very well on social media, that marginalizes one and manipulates the opinion of others, I don’t think that problem is over, “he explains.

Finally, on the underrepresentation of women among Nobel Laureates, Ressa said she disagreed with the idea of ​​imposing participation quotas, but called for more to be done to empower women in journalism.

“We achieved some things, but there is still a lot to do and I think the first thing is to put a limit on technology, so that women can reclaim their space. Many women journalists and many politicians have withdrawn from the scene, we have to bring them back and then we will advance cultures ”, he concludes.

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The Interview – Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize: “Being a journalist has become increasingly dangerous”

Hank Gilbert