Ressa: ‘Integrity of facts’ gives integrity to elections, meaning to democracy

Wena Cos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2021 01:26 AM

MANILA—An information ecosystem controls the world's reality, and journalists who used to be gatekeepers of such an ecosystem have been replaced by technology, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa said on Wednesday. 

In a discussion on media freedom and sustainability at the Summit for Democracy held virtually by the United States Department of State Ressa said this information ecosystem was under attack, and " the world must come together to prevent the worst of humanity from becoming the norm."

"For some reason, we have allowed lies laced with anger and hate to actually spread faster and further than facts. This has been exploited. It started out as a marketing and advertising tool, but now it's been exploited by power and, worse, geopolitical power," Ressa said.

She said journalism and technology should be seen as "2 sides of the same coin," and as a signifier of the the state of democracy.

"If you don't have integrity of facts, how can you have integrity of elections? How can democracy have meaning if we don't have facts underpinning our shared reality?" Ressa said.

Ressa has been served with 10 arrest warrants in the past 2 years, and was only able to receive her Nobel Peace Prize after being allowed by the Court of Appeals. 

"I am out on bail, and had to post bail 10 times just for doing my job as a journalist," she said.


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Also among the panel was Filipino journalist Sheila Coronel, director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.

Coronel said journalists should be financially independent to do their work. 

"Media markets in many countries have been distorted in favor of state and crony-owned media. We need to level the playing field, by giving independent news orgs access to grants, loans, and equity on a concessionary basis. We need to safeguard media pluralism, especially in countries where media has been captured by state or oligarchic interests," she said.

Ressa and Coronel were joined by fellow journalists Sana Safi of the BBC, Bay Fang of Radio Free Asia, and Jennifer Avila Reyes of Contra Corriente in Honduras. 

Safi called on the international community to exert pressure and demand accountability from the Taliban government to respect freedom of speech and provide a space for journalists to do their job.

Fang called for the importance of the collaboration of the government and the private sector in making information more accessible. 

"Governments who care about press freedom should work with the private sector to better fund the creation of tools that help deliver free press to people inside closed countries," she said.

Reyes echoed the challenge of censorship and threats faced by journalism in Central America. 

"It is important for governments in Central America to energetically make a call against censorship and for freedom of expression and also to address government that use punishment against the media, this is a concern in Central America and is important to be mentioned abroad," she said.

Ressa's fellow Nobel Peace laureate, Dmitri Muratov, also delivered a message in support for media freedom.

The Summit for Democracy will continue until Friday, December 10, to discuss the roles of different sectors in renewing democracy, and will end with remarks by US President Joe Biden.