Wednesday, January 19

Maria Ressa says her Nobel Prize is for “all journalists in the world” | Maria Ressa


Veteran Filipino journalist Maria Ressa said on Saturday that her Nobel Peace Prize went to “all journalists in the world” and vowed to continue her battle for press freedom.

Ressa, co-founder of the news website Rappler, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov received the award on Friday for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression.”

“This is really for all journalists in the world,” said Ressa, a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We need help on many fronts; it is much more difficult and dangerous to be a journalist today.”

Philippine press groups and rights activists hailed Ressa’s award as a “triumph” in a country classified as one of the most dangerous in the world for journalists.

Since Duterte came to power in 2016, Ressa and Rappler have endured what media advocates say is a series of criminal indictments, investigations, and online attacks.

Duterte has called Rappler a “bogus news outlet” and Ressa has been the target of abusive messages online.

Ressa, 58, said she hoped the award would provide a protective shield for her and other journalists in the Philippines against physical attacks and online threats.

“This ‘us against them’ was never the creation of journalists, it was the creation of people in power who wanted to use a kind of leadership that divides society,” said Ressa, describing the award as “like an adrenaline shot.” .

“I hope this allows journalists to do our job well without fear.”

Ressa has been a staunch critic of Duterte and his government’s policies, including a war on drugs that human rights groups estimate has killed tens of thousands of mostly poor men.

Rappler was one of the national and foreign media outlets that published shocking images of the murders and questioned their legal basis.

The judges of the international criminal court have authorized a full-blown investigation into a possible crime against humanity during the bloody campaign.

Other media outlets have clashed with Duterte, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer and broadcasting giant ABS-CBN, which lost its free license last year.

But Ressa said Rappler’s independence meant he could defend himself. “We don’t have other companies to protect … so it’s very easy for us to back down,” he said.

Ressa said that seven legal cases, including tax evasion, still in court were “ridiculous” and that she was determined to win.

He is out on bail pending an appeal against a conviction last year in a cyber libel case, for which he faces up to six years in prison.

Two other cyber defamation cases were dropped earlier this year.

“That abuse of power would have worked if I had allowed fear in my emotions and in my head to dominate our reaction; the biggest challenge was always conquering your fear, “he said.

“Being brave does not mean not being afraid, it just means knowing how to handle your fear.”

The author of How to Confront a Dictator hopes to obtain permission to travel to Norway and collect her Nobel Prize.

The Philippine election season, which began this month with candidates signing up for more than 18,000 positions from president to councilor, would be “critical” for the country, Ressa said, calling it an “existential moment.”

In May, voters will choose a successor to Duterte, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a second six-year term.

Polls show Duterte’s daughter Sara and former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ son and namesake among the favorites for the top job. Sara has denied plans to run.

“This will be a battle for facts,” Ressa said, warning that the Philippines was “very close to becoming a democracy in name only.”

Filipinos are among the world’s largest social media users and the country has become a key battleground for fake news.

Throughout the campaign against him, Ressa, who is also a US citizen, has remained in the Philippines and has continued to speak out against the Duterte government despite the risks.

“I joke all the time and sometimes say that I should really thank President Duterte because you don’t really know who you are until you are forced to fight for it,” Ressa said. “I know who I am now.”


www.theguardian.com

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