Filipino journalist reflects on winning Nobel Prize at Harvard

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) – A month after being named the first Filipina to win the Nobel Peace Prize, journalist Maria Ressa says much remains unclear about her life.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) – A month since she was named the first Filipina to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Journalist Maria Ressa says a lot is still unclear about her life.

Will his fight against a defamation lawsuit in the Philippines lead to jail time? Will she be able to travel to Norway to accept her prestigious award next month? When can she see her family next time?

“Do you know the painting Le Cri?” Ressa said Tuesday night, holding her hands to her face and mocking the existential void like Edvard Munch’s famous work. “I wake up like this everyday.”

“I don’t know where this will lead,” she continued in an interview at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shortly before graduating from the university. Salant Annual Conference on freedom of the press. “But I know that if we keep doing our job, staying on mission, holding the line, there is a better chance that our democracy will not only survive, but I will also stay out of jail. Because I haven’t done anything wrong other than being a journalist, and that’s the price to pay. I wish it wasn’t me, but it is.

The 58-year-old co-founder of Rappler, a Manila-based news site, said she had remembered that her Harvard speech came just hours after that of American journalist Danny Fenster. emotional reunion with his family in New York after his negotiated release from military-controlled Myanmar, where he had spent six months in prison for his work.

“It shows how quickly he collapses. The ground we are on is quicksand, ”she said. “Power can do what it wants.”

Ressa is worried about what next year’s elections in the Philippines, the United States and elsewhere will bring.

She has assaulted U.S. social media companies for failing to act as gatekeepers as disinformation continues to proliferate virtually unchecked on their platforms, allowing repressive regimes like those in Myanmar and elsewhere to thrive and threaten democratic institutions.

“If you don’t have the facts, you cannot have the truth. You cannot be trusted. You don’t have a shared reality, ”she said. “So how do we solve these existential problems – the rise of fascism, the coronavirus, climate change – if we don’t agree on the facts? It is fundamental. “

Ressa, who, along with Russian co-winner and journalist Dmitry Muratov, became the first working journalists in over 80 years to win the Nobel Peace Prize, completes a month-long stay as a visiting scholar at Harvard.

She says she can’t wait to visit her parents in Florida for Thanksgiving next week before returning to the Philippines. This is the first time since she left the country since she was sentenced last summer defamation and sentenced to prison in a decision considered to be a hard blow to freedom of the press in the world.

Ressa has been out on bail while the case is on appeal, but faces up to six years in prison, not to mention a slew of other active court cases against her.

Ahead of this month’s trip, she was denied a number of other travel requests by Philippine courts, including one she said was to visit her ailing mother. Ressa will also need to get court approval to attend the Nobel Prize-giving ceremony in Oslo, Norway on December 10.

“It’s like death by a thousand cuts,” said Ressa, who was born in Manila but raised mainly in the United States, before returning to the Philippines and embarking on a career as a journalist. “You don’t know how free you are until you start to lose your freedom, or you have to ask people for your freedoms.”

At Harvard, Ressa met professors and students, lectured, and researched an upcoming book.

She co-founded Rappler in 2012, and the website quickly gained notoriety for its reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs. The news agency also documented how social media is used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.

During Tuesday’s talk, which Ressa gave remotely from her hotel room due to potential COVID-19 exposure linked to the event on campus, she also reflected on her personal life toll. .

In the Philippines, she had occasionally worn a bulletproof vest in public and begged Facebook to remove violent posts against her as death threats increased.

For women journalists in particular, Ressa said, attacks on social media are quickly becoming threatening. Of about half a million online attacks she received, 60% were against her credibility while 40% were more personal and “aimed at demolishing me,” she said.

“There are times when you say to yourself, ‘Why? Why is he asking so much? Ressa said. “But the cost of not doing the right thing is far greater than the consequences for a person.”

Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press

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