Maria Ressa on defending democracy, stopping misinformation, and press freedom

SAN FRANCISCO — Fil-Am journalist Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Rappler, has been preaching for the protection of press freedom.

She and her newsgroup have been a favorite target of attacks by President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters.

Since her February arrest over alleged cyber-libel charges, Ressa has been pushing more people to defend democracy.

She shares her message at this event with the Fil-Am community of San Francisco.

“Is people power dead? No, it’s not. But the old form is dead. And Filipinos are far more cynical than we used to be in 1986. The youth here, you guys, as you find your identity please infuse your knowledge and your idealism back into Filipino society.”  

Despite the ongoing reports of internet trolls who spread misinformation and lies — Ressa says more must be done, especially in the US.

“The only people who can actually solve this problem are the social media technology platforms. And the irony, of course, those are American values with unintended consequences. They were so busy defending free speech that they didn’t realize free speech was being used to incite hate against perceived enemies of government.”

Ressa adds that one newsgroup cannot be the only one calling out for accountability.

She hopes that through her visit more people can understand what it is like to be a journalist in the Philippines.

“Fear is real because the fear is both in the physical world with the drug war and in the virtual world with the violence. So I think creating communities that understand this both on-line and off-line become really important.”

Young activists here say they are ready to answer Ressa’s call to defend press freedom.

According to event organizers, Ressa has also shared her message with former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Democratic strategist James Carville.

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