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ROUGH CUTS | Maria Ressa’s impassioned speech

Vic N. Sumalinog

WE listened the other night through YouTube the full length of the speech of Maria Ressa during the acceptance of her award given by the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. It was very passionate. She focused on the role of journalism as the avenue of telling the world only the truth no matter what or how bad it is for any particular sector of society. In her speech she gave a litany of names of journalists and media institutions that have suffered persecution all over the world. And she mentioned a number from the Philippines more specifically during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Of course she highlighted her own case and that of ABS-0CBN which lost its franchise not too long ago under a supposedly Duterte-controlled House of Representatives. In a country where freedom of speech and expression is alleged by Maria Ressa as being curtailed she blasted it all in the global community in the safety of the home of the Nobel Peace Prize award body.

     She also seemed to have taken her fight for press freedom on the American Internet companies that made more monies. She cited one of them the Mark Succerberg-founded company. Another giant technology firm she boldly lambasted was an unnamed Chinese establishment which she alleged to be having a strong influence in recent and possibly the forthcoming May 9, 2022 Philippine elections. 

     She argues that these technology giants are now the new gateways allowing themselves to become the platforms for new “creative destruction” to be carried out by certain interest groups or persons.  

    Was Maria Ressa for real with her adversarial call versus some US technology giants and that of China? We are certain we could not be just alone in raising this question. Why, because it is the same technology that is being used by Maria Ressa’s own Rappler on-line news organization in disseminating its own brand of truthful journalism.

     In her speech also the Filipino Nobel awardee cited the many journalists who died and are facing grave threats to their lives for presenting the “truth of two sides of the coin in the information eco-system”. Mentioning herself of course and some others in the Philippines she told her audience of royalties and famous European leaders that she was not even certain of her fate when she will return to her own country.

     Personally we have nothing to argue against Maria Ressa’s assertion that journalism is and should always be the purveyor of only the truth, pleasing or otherwise. But we are however not comfortable with her lumped claim that the many journalists in the Philippines who died, maimed or incarcerated all met their fate because of telling the truth. 

     Yes, we can say without fear of contradiction that a good number of media personalities got killed or imprisoned not because they were presenting the truth of both sides of the coin in the information eco-system. A good number of them met their destiny because they allowed themselves to be instruments of presenting only one side of the journalistic coin. And we know some of them. This is where whichever side of that coin feels aggrieved that some resort to extreme measures to seek redress, rightly or wrongly.

     In other words, it is that abuse of the freedom of speech and expression by some so-called guardians of truth that makes other people desperate in demanding that their own freedoms and human rights be considered by those prostituting the practice of journalism. 

     Besides, the Philippine government is one which is governed by laws and any citizen can invoke such laws to seek redress of his or her grievances including those against the media and people who are practicing journalism.

     And to borrow a line in the column of Manila Times columnist Rigoberto “Bobby” Tiglao no one journalist whether small-time or world renown, cannot just “spit on the Philippine constitution” and bastardize some laws of the country.

     We believe too, that the lady Filipino Nobel Prize awardee herself is a living testimony that freedom of the press in the Philippines is still alive and that the country’s justice system remains in place despite her claim to the contrary.  And risks are of course part of the territory just like in any endeavor a human being is into.


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