Left to right, Pyxie Castillo, Vivian Araullo, Joi Barrios, Esther Chavez, Katrina Liwanag

“Our Institutions Are Crumbling: We’re Going Back to the Future” – Maria Ressa, arrested journalist

Daly City, CA— Arrested Filipino American journalist Maria Ressa called on Filipino Americans to help battle Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s propaganda machine. “On the anniversary of the ousting of a dictator, it feels like we’re going back to the future. Let’s not allow historical revisionism to win. Help us hold the line,” said Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. (See complete statement below)

Ressa e-mailed a written statement addressed to Filipino Americans, which was read during a press conference and panel discussion hosted by Malaya Movement, a broad, multi-sectoral coalition of Filipino Americans. The press conference, emceed by Malaya convenorPyxie Castillo, was held at the Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center in Daly City, California on the anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolt.

Malaya Movement is launching its #RisewithRessa campaign as part of an effort to defend press freedom in the Philippines. Panel speakers weighed in on Ressa’s arrest and its implications on press freedom. Joi Barrios, national convenor of Malaya Movement recalled the role of the alternative press in bringing down the Marcos dictatorship 33 years ago.

Former Philippine American Press Club president Esther Chavez said threats from the Duterte government to shut down media outlets has had a chilling effect on press freedom.

Emmy award-winning journalist Vivian ZalvideaAraullo said Rappler’s refusal to dilute its critical reporting on the Duterte administration is the real reason Duterte has branded Rappler as a purveyor of “fake news” and why Ressa and Rappler is being harassed.

Katrina Liwanag, Northern California coordinator for BAYAN-USA condemned the Duterte administration’s attacks on alternative media, who were also arrested during a police crackdown on striking workers in the Philippines.

Statement of arrested Filipino American journalist Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, addresseing Filipino Americans on the 33rd anniversary of People Power Revolt:

“Thank you so much for keeping an eye on what’s happening in the Philippines.

I had always thought that being Filipino American meant that we can learn and get the best from two worlds, but increasingly, we are seeing a government propaganda machine demonizing that identity — of course, regardless of the reality of the strong ties between Filipinos and Americans. In social media, I am now being portrayed as an American out to overthrow the government. It’s ludicrous, but it’s clear where it’s headed. After all, this propaganda machine turned the Davao Death Squad into Duterte Die-hard Supporters and effectively demonized the color yellow.

Disinformation has global reach. When President Trump called the New York Times and CNN “fake news,” a week later, President Duterte called Rappler “fake news.” Disinformation has gotten so bad that my former college classmate in the United States called me up last week asking me if I was really Indonesian! (all because that was falsely used by a troll to question my right to hold the Philippine government accountable for its abuse of power).

The Philippines is now the tip of the arrow in a global fight for democracy – from the weaponization of social media against perceived enemies like journalists to weaponizing the law against Sen Leila de Lima, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Sen Antonio Trillanes – and most recently, me.

My arrest and detention was meant to send a signal that was articulated by an NBI agent to one of our young reporters livestreaming the video of my arrest: Be quiet … or you’re next. Fear in our society is real – from the brutality of the drug war to the targets of selective justice. It permeates social media and our reality. Our institutions are crumbling.

“On the anniversary of the ousting of a dictator, it feels like we’re going back to the future. Let’s not allow historical revisionism to win. Help us #HoldTheLine.”