#CourageON: Defending our rights

Silence is complicity. 

The blatant abuses of power are now codified into law. It happened in June: a regional trial court’s order changing the period of prescription for libel from 1 year to 12 years; the shutdown of ABS-CBN; and the quick passage of the Anti-Terror Law, under which a critical voice can be named a terrorist, arrested without a warrant, and jailed for up to 24 days. 

The walls are closing in. 

The Philippines is at the precipice. There’s no need to declare martial law because the very processes of democracy have been turned against it. We now live in a time that is “worse than martial law.”

It’s democracy’s death by a thousand cuts. 

The way we at Rappler have survived 4 years of attacks is by: 

1. Shining the light: Name it and demand signatures to these abuses. If we can’t get justice now, we will later. History is on our side. 

2. More hard-hitting journalism: Continue to hold the powerful to account and demand accountability for the people. Of course, the more we do that, the more the full power of the State is turned against us.

3. More innovation: We continue to explore and to build at a time of creative destruction. The Lighthouse, rolling out this week, is our latest experiment and  provides a beacon to safer shores. (Read: How Lighthouse gave us hope)

Hatred, arrogance, and incompetence can only affect you if you let it. The battle begins in our minds. (Read: Rappler ends 2019 with income: A comeback year

While I hate being the government’s cautionary tale, I’m not afraid. It made me stronger, solidified the values I believe in, made me draw the line I cannot cross. I will defend the mission of journalism as long as we are a democracy because press freedom is the foundation of every right of every Filipino under our Constitution. My job is to hold up the sky so our journalists can do their work. 

It’s time to ask yourself a question we’ve lived with for years now: What are you willing to sacrifice for the truth? I am at peace with my answer.

Everyone who speaks comes under attack on social media, once an enabler, now a tool for oppression. Be prepared for it. Accept this will happen. Social media is now a behavioral modification system. 

We’re demanding accountability as well from the social media platforms, but Lighthouse is also an experiment to see how tech can serve journalism and democracy. Please test it and give us your feedback. 

We can’t do this alone. The impunity of power is brazen, and the battle has now come to every Filipino. (Read: ABS-CBN’s battle is also ours)

We’re not alone. What’s happening in the Philippines is happening globally. In 2018, I laid out 6 action points for the international community. 

Many of you know I spent nearly two decades working outside the Philippines (and recently had a chance to celebrate #CNN40 with my former colleagues). After the June 15 conviction on cyber libel, 60 press freedom organizations around the world came together to help independent media survive in our country. Please consider signing this petition to help me stay out of jail. #JournalismIsNotACrime

When facts are under attack, journalism is activism. Help us #HoldTheLine for our rights. 

Use it or lose it. 

#CourageON.

Maria A. Ressa

Maria Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for nearly 35 years. As Rappler's co-founder, executive editor and CEO, she has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government. For her courage and work on disinformation and 'fake news,' Maria was named Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time's Most Influential Women of the Century. She was also part of BBC's 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019 and Prospect magazine's world's top 50 thinkers, and has won many awards for her contributions to journalism and human rights. Before founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN's Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before opening the network's Jakarta Bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. She wrote Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism.

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