EDITORIAL: Battle for Truth
“Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without trust, we have no shared reality, no democracy, and it becomes impossible to deal with our world’s existential problems: climate, coronavirus, the battle for truth.”
So goes part of the speech of Maria Ressa, the first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize laureate, during the awarding ceremony of the 13 winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize on December 10 at Oslo, Norway.
Ressa, a journalist for 35 years and one of the founders of Rappler, an online news website, is the 18th women and the fifth from Southeast Asia to win the most prestigious award in the world.
Since the Nobel Prize, given in memory of Alfred Nobel, started in 1901 up to this year, a total of 943 individuals, including Ressa, and 25 organizations won the coveted title of Nobel Prize laureates in the categories of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.
Ressa together with Russian journalist Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Her victory in a period of fake news proliferation and government attacks on Filipino journalists critical of the Duterte administration, is a triumph for freedom of expression specifically press freedom. It is also a win for all real and true journalists worldwide who are “forced to sacrifice so much to hold the line, to stay true to our values and mission: to bring you the truth and hold power to account.”
Despite her conviction for cyber libel, which is now on appeal, and the vile and vociferous online attack against her by apologists of President Rodrigo Duterte, who himself called Rappler a fake news outlet and who through the government’s solicitor general opposed the awardee’s request to the Court of Appeals for travel permit to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Ressa truly and rightfully deserved the honor.
Ressa, as Rappler’s chief executive officer, has been in the forefront of objectively and fearlessly exposing the evils of President Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, corruptions in his administration and the gruesome tales of premeditated killings of drug suspects and criminals in Davao City when the president was then the city mayor. Rappler’s stories on the Davao Death Squad (DDS) as narrated by two of the vigilante group’s killers, Arturo Lascañas and Edgar Matobato, who personally pointed to Duterte as the DDS mastermind, are similar to reading the bloody tales in Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel “The Godfather.”
Aside from championing press freedom in the Philippines, her role as a key leader in the global fight against disinformation was also instrumental in her selection as winner among this year’s 329 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her crusade for truth as a journalist includes exposing Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, the world’s leading social media platform and other American internet companies that control the global information ecosystem for being biased against facts, thus dividing and radicalizing the people through “ lies laced with anger and hate.”
She warned of the evils of “surveillance capitalism,” describing it as “ a deadly game for power and money” and urged everyone to know its impact on their lives, freedom and democracy.
Given the threats and perils of this new form of capitalism in our lives, all freedom loving Filipinos must join together and do their part in curbing disinformation in social media and help spread the message of truth despite online threats and harassment.
The “Battle for Truth” must not be fought alone by journalists like Ressa and Muratov. They should not be left alone to hold the line. As a people, it is our duty and moral obligation to always uphold and fight for the truth, because in the end the truth shall set us free.
For us in Bicol Mail, we remain committed to hold the line in the name of press freedom.