The 58-year-old co-founder of Rappler, a Manila-based news website, said it wasn’t lost on her that her Harvard speech came just hours after American journalist Danny Fenster’s emotional reunion with family in New York following his negotiated release from military-ruled Myanmar, where he’d spent six months in jail for his work.
“It shows how it crumbles fast. The ground we’re on is quicksand,” she said. “Power can do what it wants.”
Ressa worries about what next year’s elections in the Philippines, U.S. and elsewhere will bring.
She assailed American social media companies for failing to act as gatekeepers as misinformation continues to proliferate virtually unchecked across their platforms, allowing repressive regimes like those in Myanmar and elsewhere to thrive and threaten democratic institutions.
“If you don’t have facts, you can’t have truth. You can’t have trust. You don’t have a shared reality,” she said. “So how do we solve these existential problems — the rise of fascism, coronavirus, climate change — if we don’t agree on the facts? This is fundamental.”
Ressa, who along with co-winner and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov became the first working journalists in more than 80 years to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is wrapping up a monthlong stint as a visiting fellow at Harvard.