Maria Ressa


Chay F. Hofileña

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(UPDATED) We need to fight this and win

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If you missed my newsletter last week, it wasn’t because of a glitch or forgetfulness on my part (although that could happen sometimes). The founders of Rappler took a brief hiatus to attend the Sundance Film Festival in freezing Salt Lake City in Utah, along with some reporters who are also featured in the film by Ramona Diaz, A Thousand Cuts. 

Ramona’s two-hour documentary, which premiered at the Egyptian Theater last January 25, shows footage of Maria and Rappler staff in various scenes and situations she captured in over a year of trailing us. Producer/editor Leah Merino and Ramona did an amazing job of splicing, cutting, and weaving together a cohesive narrative from about 800 hours of footage. As Leah put it, now she can see sunlight after rushing to finish editing the film to catch the Sundance deadline.

Festival programmer Harry Vaughn said on premiere night, “This is a risky film that drops us into a really dangerous drama between a free press and a lawless regime….You have a president actively trying to dismantle truthful reporting and then you have journalists armed with no weapons but notepads demanding accountability.”

Ramona’s crew and the Rappler team were called to the front of the stage and were given a standing ovation by a truly appreciative crowd (see photos below). We were both thrilled and honestly surprised by the reception and realized that the film resonated with an American audience because there were parallelisms they must have seen in the Rappler experience – manipulation on social media, attacks and threats against critical media, and a voting populace enamored by a populist leader with authoritarian tendencies. Local audiences should hopefully see the film by April this year, if plans push through.

ON STAGE. Members of the Rappler team, along with A Thousand Cuts director Ramona Diaz and her crew field questions from the audience on premiere night. Photo by Chay Hofileña/Rappler
APPLAUSE. An appreciative audience gives the Rappler and Ramona Diaz crew a standing ovation during the premiere of A Thousand Cuts. Photo by Chay Hofileña/Rappler

Latest on the novel coronavirus

When we got back from Sundance, we were confronted by a still raging outbreak of the novel coronavirus. My previous newsletter published January 22 on our website tackled this, in case you missed it: Are we ready for a contagion?

As of 10 am, Thursday, February 6, latest key statistics and facts show the following:

  • 3 confirmed cases in the Philippines – one dead due to severe pneumonia or 2019-nCoV complications and one still recovering, and another one who tested positive has made full recovery

  • 1 Filipino on a cruise ship who tested positive for the virus quarantined in Japan
  • 133 patients under investigation in the Philippines, of whom 115 remain in hospitals

  • 1 death reported in Hong Kong, according to the South China Morning Post

  • Total 564 deaths worldwide from the virus, thus far

  • 28,078 cases worldwide, 1,141 recoveries

  • 26 countries with reported cases: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China+Macau+Hong Kong, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE, UK, US, Vietnam, Belgium

  • Visas no longer being issued to travelers from mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong

  • Travel ban on all non-Filipinos and non-permanent residence visa holders coming from China, Macau, and Hong Kong

Fighting falsehood

Meanwhile, as the world grapples with this epidemic that continues to claim lives and has started to fan xenophobia, false information (whether or not with the intent to deceive) has invaded social media, too, prompting the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to launch a collaborative project on January 24. 

At least 48 fact-checking organizations worldwide are working together to fight falsehood being spread online pertaining to the novel coronavirus. Rappler is a a partner in this initiative. According to observations, common threads run through these lies: the launch of a “miraculous vaccine,” wrong information about the source of the virus, and conspiracy theories.

When lives are at stake, these lies cannot be allowed to spread like a deadly virus. Newsbreak, your source of in-depth stories, investigations, and contextual information, has published the following useful stories in relation to the novel coronavirus. Do check them out below.

Here are a few samples, too, of ridiculous and false claims being circulated on social media – one saying that the coronavirus can be eliminated by high temperatures and the other claiming that the virus is a type of rabies. Make sure not to share them or warn friends and family who do that they are false!

FALSE: Coronavirus can be ‘eliminated’ by high temperatures

FALSE: Novel coronavirus a ‘type of rabies’

Additionally, here’s information you might find useful, too:

LIST: Where to get official, reliable info on novel coronavirus

LIST: What Filipinos in China can do amid coronavirus scare

Let me know what you think via Support free and fearless journalism – specifically our investigative reports through our crowd-funding campaign. Listen to our Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories podcast on Spotify or Apple anchored by researcher-writer Jodesz Gavilan.

Newsbreak is where you’ll find Rappler’s investigative, in-depth, and data- and research-based reports. Be updated on the latest stories by liking Newsbreak on Facebook and following @newsbreakph on Twitter.

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Chay F. Hofileña

Chay Hofileña is editor of Rappler's investigative and in-depth section, Newsbreak. Among Rappler’s senior founders and editors, she is also in charge of training. She obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.