MARIA Ressa, convicted on June 15 of Cyberlibel, was famously featured on the BBC show Hardtalk on June 30. Host Stephen Sackur is known to do the show justice with on-point research, questions sometimes so difficult you wince while listening, and an unrelenting attitude.
After the show, some Ressa critics were quick to post online that Ressa was “sacked” by Sackur, “exposed as a fraud,” and the like. Yours truly thus simply had to watch the interview to see what was what.
Truth be told, and I am not a fan of Maria Ressa, she handled herself quite well, methinks.
A transcript of the whole interview is also available online, and one can read it to get a clearer look at what was asked and answered.
Stephen Sackur’s main points were 1) Ressa’s situation and the libel conviction, her other cases for fraud, tax evasion, receiving money from the CIA... i.e., how was she doing? 2) “... the notion that all sources of freedom of expression are now curtailed and eliminated in the Philippines, isn't right... nothing like North Korea” 3) Does the Filipino public care about Ressa’s fate and that of other journalists in the Philippines, considering that Duterte’s approval ratings they are consistently above 80 percent 4) The surveys indicate that Filipinos approve of Duterte’s war on drugs 5) Is it dangerous being a journalist, does Ressa fear for her staff? 6) Has the international community let Ressa down? 7) Trump and Duterte’s extremely successful use of social media 8) Is democracy dead? 9) Duterte’s mandate and its legitimacy and 10) People Power’s seeming failure.
To which Ressa made her answers very clear. 1) She is used to being harassed and she is the same as she was four years ago, she feels like Alice in Wonderland “and I'm down in a rabbit hole, I'm going out and I'm going to walk out.” 2) “In the end the Philippines is also living under a climate of fear and violence.” 3) and 4) “I think you have to look at the surveys and talk to the people who do the surveys. And the biggest question you have to ask them is how do you count fear? ... “But if you dig deeper into the surveys, number 1 -- and this is based on the UN report, one just released a few weeks ago -- you can see that the people who die in the drug war, are the poor and you can also see in those surveys it’s not just the Social Weather stations, it’s also Pulse Asia, you can see that President Duterte’s support, among the poorest of the poor, has dwindled significantly, compared to the AB, the people who are wealthy, who can cut the deals.” 5) Ressa doesn’t make the assignments in Rappler but what she sees in her team is renewed commitment. And no, she doesn’t have to encourage Rappler to do investigative reporting; they do it on their own while she tries to “keep the sky from falling.”
To be continued next week. In the meantime, check out the interview, read its transcript.