Nobel Peace Prize laureate and renowned journalist Maria Ressa said yesterday that technology, journalism and community action are key factors in the fight against disinformation, which she called a “battle for facts.”
As traditional media is under attack from geopolitical power plays, authoritarian regimes and social media platforms, “we have lost trust” among the people, Ressa said in a keynote address at the virtual Asia Journalism Forum.
Ressa, cofounder of the online news site Rappler.com, based in the Philippines, said this is the most difficult time to be a journalist.
Facebook algorithms have “polarized and radicalized” people, and the Internet has now become a place for “weaponized propaganda” to promote hate, anger and conspiracy theories instead of facts and truth, while tearing down journalists’ credibility, she said.
“Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust,” said Ressa, a 58 year-old Filipino-American who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her commitment to free expression, human dignity and democratic government in reporting on the administration of the outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Winning the “battle for facts” involves technology, journalism and community, Ressa said.
Social media platforms need guardrails, which require content moderation and collaborative fact-checking efforts, said Ressa, who cochairs the International Fund for Public Interest Media.
She also proposed strengthening journalism, helping fund independent news entities and building communities of action that would stand up for democratic values.
Ressa is an award-winning journalist who opened and ran CNN’s Jakarta bureau from 1995 to 2005, and later headed the newsroom of ABS-CBN, the largest broadcaster in the Philippines, before cofounding Rappler.
On June 15, 2020, a Manila court found her guilty of libeling a prominent Filipino businessman under the country’s controversial anti-cybercrime law, a decision that was condemned by human rights groups and journalists as an attack on media freedom.
Ressa is on bail as she appeals the sentence.
This year’s Asia Journalism Forum, organized by the Taipei-based Foundation for Excellent Journalism Award, was held virtually on Saturday and yesterday.
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