Duterte’s ‘weaponization of the law’ is a threat to democracy, says journalist Maria Ressa

Duterte’s ‘weaponization of the law’ is a threat to democracy, says journalist Maria Ressa

By
The World staff

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Maria Ressa, executive editor of Philippine news website Rappler, walks out of Manila City Hall after being found guilty of cyber libel, in Manila, Philippines, June 15, 2020.

Credit:

Eloisa Lopez/Reuters 

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Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, the founder of the online news outlet Rappler Media, has spent years staring down President Rodrigo Duterte, one of the world’s most ruthless dictators.

She hasn’t blinked yet. 

But this week, a Manila court convicted Ressa and a former colleague at the news site she founded of the crime of cyber libel.

Related: Journalist Maria Ressa says democracies are fragile

Her alleged crime involved a 2012 article published on Rappler that linked a Filipino businessman to human trafficking and drug smuggling. She could face up to six years in prison. 

“In 2014, someone in Rappler noticed a typographical error in this 2012 article, and they changed one letter of one word. Based on that, I could go to jail for six years because the judge then ruled that this is re-publication. Of course, we’re going to challenge this. And I hope I do get justice at some point,” Ressa told The World while out on bail waiting to appeal the verdict. 

Related: Violence toward journalists is rising around the world

Ressa spoke with Marco Werman about her legal challenges and what it means to be a journalist in the Philippines under the Duterte administration. She says the legal acrobatics the Filipino government performed to get to a guilty verdict are a saga of their own.

Marco Werman: It sounds like a really Kafkaesque situation you find yourself in. Are you preparing yourself mentally for the possibility of going to jail? 

Maria Ressa: It took me a month of really thinking about it. I talked to other journalist friends who had been imprisoned, and I realized that the path I was on that I would need to start thinking about this. I had to confront that. 

President Duterte has called journalists “sons of bitches.” He says journalists are not exempt from assassination. Do you think on some level you intimidate Duterte? Or are the attacks against you personal on some level for him? 

I’m not sure. I know the last time I spoke with him directly was in December 2016. That was his first year in office. I was one of four journalists that he gave interviews to. I think that the Duterte administration makes examples of people. Among businessmen, he focused early on after he took office on a businessman whose …company’s stocks dropped, and they were forced to sell. And politicians — Senator Leila de Lima was head of the Commission on Human Rights and was running after [Duterte] for human rights violations when he was still mayor. She [was] imprisoned in February 2017, and she is still in prison until today. And then, for journalists, I’m a cautionary tale. And I think that there’s some level of threat that if we can do this to her, imagine what we can do to you. 

Related: Will Voice of America’s new Trump pick protect agency independence? 

Does his language frighten you? 

It’s something that we gradually accepted in Rappler. And then, when we were confronted bit by bit with decisions that we had to make, the choice was always very clear. And part of that probably was because the women who founded Rappler were older. I was in my 50s already at that point. I felt like I’d spent my entire career going to the gym to get ready for this moment. So — frightened? By the time I realized the path I was on, I just spent some time to wrap my head around it in the same way for the Monday verdict, I sat and accepted the worst-case scenario. And if I was okay with the worst-case scenario, then everything else will be all right. 

I know a lot of Filipinos support President Duterte. What is it like for you, battling such a popular dictator, when he’s got that support behind him? 

He was one of five presidential candidates, and he didn’t win substantially. In fact, he won only a small majority over the five. I think he’s definitely a popular president. His authoritarian style of leadership was what Filipinos wanted during great times of uncertainty. The fact that he says what he thinks — he seems like “every man.” But he’s also aided by a propaganda machine on social media. And these disinformation networks seed these narratives that really take on a life of their own and float his reputation. One of the most familiar narratives is that “He’s just like me. He is the best president this country will ever have.” I have never — and I’ve gone around a lot in the Philippines — no one has ever come to my face to say or do the things that they do on social media. I’ve been a journalist for a long time. This next year will be my 35th year. And this is part of the reason I worry about the manipulation of the public sphere through social media. 

You’ve been working as a journalist since 1986. What will stop you from reporting? 

I hope nothing. I mean, I did conflict reporting in Southeast Asia for CNN. I’ve worked in war zones. And this time period, with the kind of hate and exponential attacks you get on social media — the weaponization of the law — this is tougher. This is a tougher environment to work in than a war zone because you don’t know where the attacks are going to come from, right? There’s a Damocles sword hanging over your head all the time. When I look at my colleagues in the Philippines, look, the largest newspaper was attacked first by the president. The largest television station was just shut down about a month ago. We were the third attack. And what I’ve learned is that we need to swat away the Damocles sword, because if you allow it to change the way you do your journalism, then they win.

I always wonder, why is our government attacking us so much? Why do they not want the questions in a time of COVID? It almost seems like right now they’re codifying into law the abuses of our rights that have happened on an ad hoc basis. So, this is a precipice that we need to make sure we don’t fall off the edge and lose our democracy. 

Do you have an answer to why? Why is the government going after journalists? 

It’s the consolidation of power — the perfect storm of social media [and] President Duterte-style of leadership. In my last interview with him, I asked him, do you need to use violence? And he just categorically said yes. He feels that violence and fear are important aspects of leadership. I don’t know where this will lead, but we certainly, because of technology, because of the weaponization of the law, we’re in a new area. Look, the eight criminal charges I have, cumulatively, I could face almost 100 hundred years in jail. But I look away from that and look at where we are today and see that we have to actively push. It is a battle for truth, right? And in a battle for truth, journalists are advocates. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Russia, Philippines hand down controversial convictions; Beijing lockdowns return; New Zealand sports fans return to stadiums

Russia, Philippines hand down controversial convictions; Beijing lockdowns return; New Zealand sports fans return to stadiums

By
The World staff

Former US Marine Paul Whelan holds a sign as he stands inside a defendants’ cage during his verdict hearing in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020.

Credit:

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Ex-US marine Paul Whelan has been found guilty by the Moscow City Court of spying charges, in what he called a “sham trial.” Whelan, 50, was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor by the Russian court Monday. In 2018, he was arrested in a Moscow hotel room with a flash drive that authorities say held state secrets. Whelan says he was set up with a USB stick, which he believed to contain family photos.

The case has strained US-Russia relations, though the White House has not been vocal about Whelan’s situation. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan condemned the verdict, calling the trial an “egregious violation of human rights,” and criticized the embassy’s lack of access to Whelan. Whelan’s lawyers may lodge an appeal, and his family has called on the US to take steps to bring him home.

In the Philippines, journalist Maria Ressa, founder of the investigative Rappler Media, and her former colleague, Reynaldo Santos, have become the first journalists to be convicted of cyber libel under a highly scrutinized law that opponents warned would be used to silence critics of controversial President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. The Committee to Protect Journalists called Monday’s conviction an “outrageous crime against press freedom.” Ressa and Santos will appeal, but could face up to six years in prison. 

The World spoke with Maria Ressa last April: “Democracies can turn overnight. You can lose rights very quickly and I’m shocked at what’s happened to the Philippines. So — hold the line. I always say, ‘Hold the line.’ I think we need to demand accountability. We need to stop impunity. Those are the two main things.” 

What The World is following

Less than a month after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis galvanized a movement against systemic racism and police brutality around the world, Rayshard Brooks, also a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday, reigniting protests in the city

Some areas of Beijing are reentering lockdowns after China’s capital city reported 36 new cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day, likely linked to an outbreak at the Xinfadi wholesale market. In US states with support for Donald Trump, Republican skepticism about the threat of the pandemic could be shifting as the number of cases of COVID-19 increases by the hundreds or more per day. Research suggests that racial attitudes could have reinforced an “empathy gap” for virus victims, which have disproportionately been people of color

In New Zealand, 20,000 fans became some of the first in the world to regather in person for a sporting event — a rugby match on Saturday. The country has been declared essentially virus-free after strict lockdown measures beginning in March effectively quashed the virus there. 

Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

Women wearing protective face masks are seen in a bus, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, June 9, 2020. 

Credit:

Aly Song/Reuters 

Four years ago, JC, a teacher and poet from Mississippi, moved to China with her husband and two children on a grand adventure. Now, she teaches literature to high schoolers in Guangzhou. 

But she says life has changed amid the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-April, reports of “imported cases” of COVID-19 from abroad triggered a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment across China, especially toward black people.

‘Travel bubbles’: Who’s in and who’s out of the plan to save global tourism

Passengers wait for a regional train at the main train station in Berlin during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany, June 10, 2020.

Credit:

Gabriela Baczynska/Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic has brought leisure travel to a standstill. International tourism could decline by up to 80% this year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Now, just as the Northern Hemisphere enters the summer season, governments around the world are trying to revitalize their tourism economies.

And: Sweden’s handling of coronavirus drives some people to relocate

Morning meme

Watching Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s moptop emerge is one way to keep track of the calendar, says The New York Times (and this GIF 👇). 

I made a thing! @JustinTrudeau‘s hair from every daily update since March 16, 2020. #Longhairdontcare pic.twitter.com/IvNeKbKhYC

— Steven Tiao (@stiao) June 12, 2020In case you missed itListen: Latin America’s reckoning with racism and police violence

A demonstrator wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), holds a sign that reads “I can’t breathe, black lives matter” during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd and the arrival of U.S. troops in Colombian territory, in Bogota, Colombia June 3, 2020.

Credit:

Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

The World continues its coverage of campaigns for police reform across the globe. Host Marco Werman speaks with Siana Bangura, an organizer in London, and Miski Noor, an activist with Black Visions Collective in Minneapolis. Also, The World’s Jorge Valencia has a story about police killings in Latin America.  Tensions continue to escalate between the US and China. The US Navy is dispatching two aircraft carriers plus support ships to the western Pacific, a powerful signal to Beijing. Host Marco Werman speaks with military analyst Sim Tack about the escalations. With international tourism falling off a cliff, governments are trying to mitigate things by allowing their citizens to visit neighboring countries. But with “travel bubbles” forming around the world, the US hasn’t been invited to buddy up with anybody. The World’s Bianca Hillier has more. And, US President Donald Trump authorized economic sanctions against the International Criminal Court this week, unhappy about efforts to investigate US personnel. The World’s Rupa Shenoy reports.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Zaytoven – Boot Up lyrics

(feat. Future)

[Intro: Future]
Zaytoven
Yeah
I want [?] some boot up (boot up)
You know I put the bag on ’em
(That’s that Molly in there)
Boot up, boot up, boot up

[Chorus: Future]
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I want [?] some boot up
I got that work when I pull up
I want [?] some boot up
I want [?] some boot up
I want that foreign, I pull up
I’m in that foreign, I pull up (skrrt)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (skrrt)
I’m in a foreign, I pull up

[Verse 1: Future]
I’m tryna pass the momma (woah)
She tryna grab the movie
Tryna [?] on that boot up
Shawty gon’ fuck all the loot up (loot up)
I got them tabs, you poppin’ them [?]
You better go stack you some boot up
I’m livin’ like I’m Godzilla (yeah)
I’m bouta go see the killer
Takin’ the [?] with the pill
You don’t know what that done did to me (what it)
I gave him a [?] out in the chimney
I just copped this cold broad an’ she from the Philippines
She wanna fuck up the cost, for real
I see how she look at the [?]
You wanna take you a ‘Xanny?
I pass ’em out like they candy
Put my love inside a cup, pour it up at any
Shawty like the way I fuck when I’m on the Roxies
On a half-a-gram of yuck, you can’t stop me

[Chorus: Future]
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I want [?] some boot up
I got that work when I pull up
I want [?] some boot up
I want [?] some boot up
I want that foreign, I pull up
I’m in that foreign, I pull up (skrrt)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (skrrt)
I’m in a foreign, I pull up

[Verse 2: Future]
She get that work when I ask for it (yeah)
I don’t give away no cash flow (nah)
I’m always down to my last four (woo)
I’m four-down on my last ho
Came in her mouth, are you hardcore? (yeah)
You get to give me an encore
They need to give me my own show
I done sold out on my own tour
I want the work when I [?]
I just need to see the cash first
I just need to see the bag first (bag)
I’ma get it, that my last word
[?] with a young [?]
But he ain’t doin’, I’m an outburst him
I’ma hit his bitch mouth first
I’ma show him how to floss first
See that nigga, he a boss, baby
I’ma show you that I’m bosser
I’ma have her saying, “Yes, sir” (yes)
Pimpin’ bitches, I did that first
NBA in my lecture (yeah)
I already ran off on Hector (woo)
I’m pourin’ up in a Tesla
An’ I get drops

[Chorus: Future]
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (woo)
I got that work when I pull up
I want [?] some boot up
I want [?] some boot up
I want that foreign, I pull up
I’m in that foreign, I pull up (skrrt)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
Boot up, boot up, boot up, boot up
Boot up, boot up, nigga (woo)
I want [?] some boot up (skrrt)
I’m in a foreign, I pull up

10cc – Don’t Send We Back

We came across from Korea
We braved the wind and the rain
We came a thousand miles just to be here
And you want to send we back again
We crossed Malaysian waters
We sailed the South China Sea
We stopped at Singapore and Jakarta
And you want to send we back to sea
Don’t send we back, have mercy upon us
We know you don’t want us but we’ve got no one
Don’t send we back, we’ve run out of water
We won’t last the morning in the baking sun
The Indonesian Islands
We stopped at every one
As for the Philippines we tried ’em
And you want to turn our boat around

Ugly God – Like A Maverick (The Booty Tape Album)

[Verse 1]
Aye, I make music from my basement
I done came up and got famous
I’m the goat ain’t no replacement
35k on my bracelet
Niggas is bitches I don’t fuck with niggas, I can’t fuck with niggas like racists
Hoes on my dick I put gold on my wrist now my neck really cold like a penguin
I pipe your bitch with this ice on my wrist cause she see my dick hard like the pavement
I got that guap now these bitches gon flock B, I got your main bitch in amazement
Slaughter your daughter no savage
Bitch I’m the booty gang captain
She can’t be mine, no I can’t waste my time nigga I be doing shows and traveling
Bitch, I’m throwed off like a javelin
Get your bitch gone just like magic
I see that booty, I grab it
Ugly God ball like a maverick

[Tag]
Thanks Ugly God!

[Hook]
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Get your bitch gone just like magic, cause I ball out like a maverick
I see that booty I grab it, cause I ball out like a maverick
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Get your bitch gone just like magic, cause I ball out like a maverick
I see that booty I grab it, cause I ball out like a maverick

[Verse 2]
I spent that check on my wrist and my neck, Ugly God got the sauce you can’t handle it
Made half a mil by myself with no deal, now they mad cause I’m cocky and arrogant
Let’s get into it, no talking, let’s do it, I think that I should’ve been President
If Ugly God was a candidate watch how the people vote for me unanimous
But wait
I take your bitch on a date
Ugly God live from the H
My new bitch thick like a steak
I sit back and thumb through this cake
Fuck a new friend, niggas fake
They slept on me now they awake
Bitch I made hits like I’m Drake
Hey, gold on my neck and my wrist full of diamonds
Hey, these niggas is bitches and bitches be lying
Hey, don’t call me "brother" no you ain’t no kin to me
Can’t trust a soul all you niggas is enemies
Biting my wave boy I swear you a mini me
Come at me wrong you get hurt boy I been a G
Now I’m on top the ladder bitch, look at my swagger, I’m sharp like a dagger
Nigga want beats, serve em up like a platter
She hit my phone, I put meat in her bladder
I done came up but just watch what I’m finna be
I just got me a lil bitch from the Philippines
She give me play cause I’m rich so she into me
Talk out the side of your neck and you guillotine

[Hook]
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Get your bitch gone just like magic, cause I ball out like a maverick
I see that booty I grab it, cause I ball out like a maverick
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Just like a maverick
Watch me ball out like a maverick
Get your bitch gone just like magic, cause I ball out like a maverick
I see that booty I grab it (Thanks Ugly God!)
Cause I ball out like a maverick

The Oemons – Mister King Kebabu lyrics

A long time ago dating back for centuries
Travelling men from afar were searching for a place to be
The siblings, Mister and King were the fruits of the royal family (Kebab)
They tagged along Ababu and formed their angry little posse called

Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Is my home

One day, an idea just came up something that would make some money
They would swim to the Philippines and sell their food that were spicy
They huddled to come up with a name something that would be so catchy
They thought the locals were that lame
So they named the place stereotypically

Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Is my home

The only mystery for me something that I can’t see
Why the white stuff makes food so tasty How could this be?
It could be mystic gypsy dust, a secret recipe
It could be love juice from the cock of the Great Khali

Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Mister! King Kebabu
Is my home

Chess In Concert – One Night In Bangkok lyrics

[Verse 1]
Bangkok! Oriental setting
And the city don’t know what the city is getting
The crème de la crème of the chess world in a
Show with everything but Yul Brynner

[Verse 2]
Time flies, doesn’t seem a minute
Since the Tyrolean spa had the chess boys in it
All change, but don’t you know that when you
Play at this level it’s no ordinary venue

[Hook]
It’s Iceland or the Philippines or
Hastings or this place!

[Chorus]
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls aren’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

[Verse 3]
One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over your pieces, brother

It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city.

Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town…

Tea, girls, warm and sweet
Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite

Get Thai’d! You’re talking to a tourist
Whose every move’s among the purest.

I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine.

[Chorus]
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

[Verse 4]
Siam’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would a
Muddy old river or reclining Buddha.

Thank God I’m only watching the game, controlling it.

[Verse 5]
I don’t see you guys rating
The kind of mate I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you.

So you better go back to your bars, your
Temples, your massage parlours…

[Chorus]
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me.

[Outro]
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me