Maria Ressa urges journalists to fight for truth, integrity

Published December 11, 2021, 3:56 PM

by Manila Bulletin

By Khriscielle Yalao

“What are you willing to sacrifice for the truth?,” asked first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize recipient Maria Ressa at the awarding ceremony held at the Oslo City Hall in Oslo, Norway, on Friday, Dec. 10.

Ressa posed the question in her acceptance speech as she remarked on the current state of global journalism.

“Our greatest need today is to transform that hate and violence, the toxic sludge that’s coursing through our information ecosystem, prioritized by American internet companies that make more money by spreading that hate and triggering the worst in us. Well, that just means we have to work harder. In order to be the good, we have to believe there is good in the world,” Ressa remarked.

Ressa said technology plays a crucial role in global affairs, and stressed the need for “information ecosystems” driven by facts to thrive”.

“We need information ecosystems that live and die by facts. We do this by shifting social priorities to rebuild journalism for the 21st century while regulating and outlawing the surveillance economics that profit from hate and lies,” she said.

She blasted digital media corporations like Facebook for allowing hate and disinformation fester within the platform.

“Facebook is the world’s largest distributor of news, and yet studies have shown that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than facts. These American companies controlling our global information ecosystem are biased against facts, biased against journalists. They are, by design, dividing us and radicalizing us,” she said.

Ressa called for greater support for independent journalism, for protection of journalists, and to hold states that target journalists accountable.

Ressa said the decision to award this year’s prize to her and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov is an important landmark for democracy, especially for journalists “persecuted in the shadows” around the world.

She shared her own struggles as a journalist, from receiving 10 arrest warrants to facing seven pending court cases in the Philippines.

On Dec. 3, the Philippine Court of Appeals granted Ressa’s motion to attend the award ceremony in Oslo.

“I stand before you, a representative of every journalist around the world who is forced to sacrifice so much to hold the line, to stay true to our values and mission: to bring you the truth and hold power to account,” Ressa said.

Ressa highlighted how “gendered disinformation” puts women and LGBTQ+ journalists at a higher risk than their male counterparts.

She said this “pandemic of misogyny and hatred” needs to be addressed.

Ressa, the 18th woman to receive the prize, stood firm on her advocacy and commitment to truth and democracy.

“I’ve said this repeatedly over the last five years: without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with the existential problems of our times: climate, coronavirus, now, the battle for truth,” Ressa said.