Book Launch
Maria Ressa Launches Her Book “How To Stand Up To A Dictator” in the Philippines

"How To Stand Up To A Dictator" by Maria Ressa

After a hectic two weeks travelling around the United States and the United Kingdom, Nobel laureate and Rappler CEO, Maria Ressa returns to the Philippines to launch her book “How To Stand Up To A Dictator” at the Estancia Mall in Pasig City on Saturday, December 10, in commemoration of the International Day for Human Rights. The book draws parallels to the Philippines’ infamous war on drugs campaign by former president Rodrigo Duterte to the Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns that have similarly left their citizenry susceptible to attacks on their rights and freedom. Maria Ressa, by providing her tumultuous journey as a journalist covering Southeast Asia to her time as the Rappler CEO, discusses the social climate that now plagues the age of information.

When asked about the trend of reemerging and persisting authoritarian regimes, Ressa pointed towards the lack of accountability amongst social media platforms that now promulgate lies in this market of a rising economy of disinformation. Maria Ressa stated that “Today, the commodity is human attention and human emotions. We are not protected. Do we want to live in a world where lies are rewarded?”. She reiterated how authoritarian regimes thrive through lies and a citizenry divided. Toppled regimes are now being rebuilt under a foundation of revised history with allies of social influence reinforcing false narratives to reshape public opinion.

Maria Ressa speaks at her book launch

In honour of the International Human Rights Day, Ressa avowed the crucial role of journalists as defenders of democracy. Charting the many abuses she’s endured from the past administration, including at least seven active cases pending in court in the Philippines, Ressa asserted how independent journalism is an “antidote to tyranny” needed to strengthen our democracy. Ressa noted how “Journalists are trained to stand up to power. That’s what we need. We need to continue doing that”.

The irony of her success was not lost on Maria Ressa who has become a target of countless digital campaigns meant to besmirch her image in the very country she sought to defend. “I think we have to look beyond politics, we have to look at values. I don’t believe our values have changed, I think Pinoys are the most sensitive and empathetic. That’s why I chose the Philippines. We have to remember the good.” Ressa stated. In an earlier interview Ressa cited that “What’s happening in the Philippines would not have happened without Silicon Valley and Facebook”. Ressa mentioned how 100% of Filipinos are now on Facebook. In her book, she reiterates this idea that the Filipino people are not innately hateful but that these platforms have enabled hate to thrive and become a seductive social engagement.

Butch Dalisay speaks at Maria Ressa's book launch

Dr. Rainer Adam, Interim Head of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Philippines was amongst the attendees at the book launch, a gathering that also included retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palbay, writer Butch Dalisay, journalists Tina Monzon-Palma, Howie Severino, and Karen Davila.

Ressa, in her parting statements, quoted Milan Kundera: “The struggle of a man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. I know the moment it became personal – when I was arrested. I moved from being a journalist to being a citizen and citizens should not be treated like this” she said.  She repeated her mantra of saying “We are responsible for holding the line”. It was through that struggle and lived experience that she said she began to understand. With democracy and truth at stake she felt it was only inevitable for someone like her to stand up to a dictator.

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