Filipino reporter Maria Ressa on Duterte’s targeting of the press & How Facebook aids authoritarians


Filipino reporter Maria Ressa PHOTO/Democracy Now/Duck Duck Go

As Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte amps up his attacks on the free press, we speak with renowned Filipino journalist Maria Ressa about Duterte’s deadly “war on drugs,” his affinity for Donald Trump and his weaponization of social media. Ressa is the CEO and executive editor of the leading independent Filipino news site The Rappler, which Duterte has repeatedly tried to shut down. Last week, the Filipino government indicted her for tax evasion in what is widely seen as the government’s latest attack on the website. We speak with Maria Ressa in New York City. She has received the 2018 Knight International Journalism Award and the Committee to Protect Journalists 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to look at attacks on the press here at home and abroad. The White House is threatening to once again revoke the press pass for CNN’s Jim Acosta, just days after CNN won a temporary restraining order. White House officials have told Acosta he’ll be suspended again once the 2-week restraining order expires. Acosta was initially stripped of his press pass after questioning Trump during a live televised press conference. On Sunday, Trump defended his attacks on the media during an interview on Fox News with Chris Wallace.

CHRIS WALLACE: In 2017, last year, you tweeted this, and I want to quote it accurately: “The FAKE NEWS media … is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s true, a hundred percent.

CHRIS WALLACE: No president has liked his press coverage. John Kennedy, in your Oval Office, canceled the subscription to the New York Herald Tribune. Nobody called it the enemy of the American people.

Chris, I’m calling it—the fake news is the enemy—it’s fake. It’s phony. They’ll take something to—

CHRIS WALLACE: But a lot of times, sir, it’s just news you don’t like.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, it’s not. No, no. I don’t mind getting bad news if I’m wrong.

CHRIS WALLACE: But, sir, leaders in authoritarian countries, like Russia, China, Venezuela, now repress the media using your words.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can’t talk for other people. I can only talk for me. I will tell you, the news—

CHRIS WALLACE: But you’re seen around the world as—


CHRIS WALLACE: —a beacon for repression, not for—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Chris. I’m not talking about you, but you sometimes maybe, but I’m not talking about you. The news about me is largely phony. It’s false.

AMY GOODMAN: While President Trump continues to attack the media, we turn now to look at another world leader doing the same, cracking down on the press. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte is attempting to shut down the leading independent Filipino news site the Rappler, which has published groundbreaking work on Duterte’s deadly “war on drugs,” which has killed more than 12,000 people. Duterte has repeatedly described the site as a “fake news” outlet.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: You are a fake news outlet, and I am not surprised that your articles are also fake.

AMY GOODMAN: Philippines President Duterte describing Rappler as a “fake news outlet,” saying its articles are also fake. Last week, the Filipino government indicted Maria Ressa, the founder of Rappler, for tax evasion, in what’s widely seen as the government’s latest attempt to shut down the website. In January, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission also revoked Rappler’s license to operate, on charges the website is foreign-owned, even though the website is owned by Filipinos. The government then banned the news website from the presidential palace, claiming Duterte had lost trust in the publication, and characterized its coverage as fake news. Duterte has also called reporters who ask him tough questions “spies,” and warned that, quote, “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination.”

While the Filipino government has attempted to silence Maria Ressa, her journalism has been praised around the world. Last week, she received the 2018 Knight International Journalism Award.

MARIA RESSA: Our problems are fast becoming your problems. Boundaries around the world have collapsed, and we can begin to see a kind of global playbook. When President Trump banned Jim Acosta last night, he followed President Duterte’s actions against our reporter Pia Ranada and me. I haven’t reported, but I’m banned from the palace, early this year. Of course, when Trump called CNN and The New York Times fake news, a week later—you saw the video—Duterte called Rappler fake news. Power corrupts. It coerces and co-opts.

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists will honor Maria Ressa with its 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award here in New York. Maria Ressa joins us for the rest of the hour here in our New York studio. Prior to launching Rappler in 2011, Maria Ressa worked at CNN and ABS-CBN.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

MARIA RESSA: Thanks for having me, Amy.

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