Screen grab of CBC The National with Maria Reesa. (CBC, The National)

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1434986051688

Maria Reesa: Only one alive and free of four journalists chosen by Time 

By Ted Alcuitas

“You shouldn’t be complacent ,” Rappler CEO Maria Reesa tells Adrienne Arsenault of CBC in an interview at Toronto’s Public Library recently.

Reesa, one of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2018 ,was coming back from New York City where she was one of the celebrities to ring in the city’s New Year celebrations.

The conversation was about “truth” on social media and the role it plays on our lives.

The only one alive and free of the four chosen by Time Magazine, Reesa bristles at the power of social media especially Facebook. (Jamal Kashoggi was assassinated, Capital Gazette reporters gunned down, Reuters in Myanmar jailed)

Reesa has been on President Duterte’s crosshairs for Rappler’s persistent reporting on the president’s bloody drug war.  Reports say more than 26,000 dead since he took power in June 2016.

“Weaponizing the rule of law…allowing the law against journalists is a massive crack in a pillar of democracy.”

She had met Facebook CEO Mark Zuckenberg to tell him about what Facebook has done to the Philippines where 97% of Filipinos are said to be addicted.

It has been reported that Rodrigo Duterte used Facebook trolls to help win his election. Reesa wants Facebook to shut down fake news sites.

Lessons for Canada

“Do you think Canada is ripe for the taking?,” asks Arsenault about ‘ disinformation networks’ in the coming elections.

“You should not be complacent. Canada is a  melting pot of different cultures .. when this kind of emotions is unleashed it’s hard for rational minds prevail .

This stuff on social media pushes populism to the nth degree, because it fuels fears, it pounds on fracture lines in society”.

“I have no choice. I am also a Filipino,” she tells Arseanault when asked why she has to go back to the Philippines when she has American citizenship. It’s like “going back to the fire” where she is facing five arrest warrants and charges of tax evasion which could land her in jail for 15 years.

“This is why we are journalists in the first place. When you are a journalist in good times, it’s easy to live by those principles. ”

“This is the time when it matters.”