“This is an existential moment for global power structures, turned upside down by technology. When journalists globally are under attack, democracy is under attack.” With these words, the internationally-esteemed investigative journalist and press freedom champion Maria Ressa, winner of the 2019 Shorenstein Journalism Award, opened her keynote address at a lunchtime ceremony, held at Stanford on October 21.
Ressa knows first-hand the terrifying reality of continuously being subject to online attacks and politically motivated attempts by the government to silence and intimidate. As CEO and executive editor of Rappler, she has led the Philippine independent news platform in shining critical light on the Duterte administration’s policies and actions. President Duterte in turn has made no secret of his dislike for Ressa and Rappler, accusing the platform for carrying “fake news.” Ressa has been arrested twice this year, accused of corporate tax evasion and of violating security laws, and slapped with charges of cyber libel for a report that was published before the libel law came into effect. Since Duterte’s election in summer 2016, the Philippine government has filed at least 11 cases and investigations against Ressa and Rappler.
“And all because I’m a journalist,” she says.
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