Nowhere is the rise of attacks on the press clearer than in Maria Ressa’s story.
PBS Distribution virtually released A Thousand Cuts in the United States Friday. The documentary, which debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival, covers the Filipinx journalist’ crusade against misinformation spread by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
According to NPR, Ressa was convicted in June after her Feb. 2019 arrest on charges of cyber libel. The CEO of Rappler, a news organization that has frequently covered Duterte’ brutal war against drugs, said “journalism is activism.”
“If facts are debatable, and we know that large groups of people are being manipulated by geopolitical forces, can we even have democracy?” Ressa said, the Daily Beast reports. “Do we have integrity of elections if we don’t have facts?”
The documentary follows Rappler’s staff, such as police beat reporter Rambo Talabong and investigative reporter Patricia Evangelista. According to the Daily Beast, both have spent years covering the “graphic, out-in-the-open government-mandated murders of poor Filipinos who are deemed—rightly or wrongly—drug addicts and drug pushers.”
The film also works to incorporate both sides of the issue, The Guardian reports. Ramona S. Diaz, the film’s director, interviews both Ressa and Duertes’ supporters, including Mocha Uson, a singer and public official known as the “queen of fake news.”
“No one sees themselves as a villain. Mocha’s very media-conscious, she understood the power of the story,” Diaz said, according to The Guardian. “I think they both said yes so they could be part of shaping that story.”
“Politics in the Philippines has always been about spectacle,” Diaz continued. “It’s entertainment, broken up with a few speeches, and then back to the entertainment.”
Ressa draws parallels between the Duterte administration and many others, including the Trump administration, The Guardian reports.
“It’s a trend that I felt at first in 2014, with the election of Modi in India while I was in Indonesia covering the election of Jokowi [Joko Widodo, the current president],” Ressa said, according to The Guardian. “The world had gotten so complex, that people just wanted to live their lives. They say, ‘Please, someone make these decisions.’”
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