The Nobel Prize newsroom in the Philippines is overjoyed but blocked

The young editors and reporters of Apple, a news site in the Philippines, were already busy on Friday. The next year was the last day to be a candidate in the election, and reporters were watching to see who would try to replace Rodrigo Duterte, the president who had attacked the rapper for many years and threatened his staff.

Then Maria Resa, one of the founders of the media, heard that she and a Russian journalist, Dmitry A. Muratov, had won the Nobel Peace Prize for their “courageous fight for freedom of expression.” He immediately sent his co-founders: “I won.” The noise went out, and several “OMG” companies flooded the slack channel.

For hours, staff said, they were excited to receive the Mrs. Racer award. But they know there are tough times ahead. The news website may still be down. There are seven active court cases pending against Mrs. Resa and the appellant. The site’s journalists face a lot of pressure from online trolls, who have been inspired by Mr. Duterte’s advice that journalists should be considered “spies” who are “not exempt from murder.”

“We have to fight and be soldiers,” said Jema Mendoza, who led the rapper’s efforts to tackle confusion in digital media. “When you are in this state you feel that it is bigger than you. And this feeling fuels you and you continue.”

The future of several independent journalism organizations in the Philippines is at risk. Mr. With coverage of Duterte’s blasphemy by police in the war on drugs and the story of a corrupt deal involving local businessmen, Rappalar has become a symbol of fearless journalism in an area where the media has consistently been hampered.

Reporters from Rappler have acknowledged that this is a difficult time. Access is a problem because Mr. Due to the attack on them in Duterte. The stress of being trolled, especially in a newsroom where the middle age is only 23, is going away. But they are still trying In the words of Mrs. Racer – “Hold the line.”

They know very well that Mr. Challenging Duterte comes at a high price. In January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines announced that it would revoke the operator’s operating license, saying the site had violated foreign ownership laws. Rights activists and other journalists saw the action widely. In retaliation for the rapper’s coverage of Duterte’s brutal drug war.

Shortly after the staff meeting, Mrs. Resa and her co-founders Lilibeth Frondoso, Glenda Gloria and Che Hofilena insisted that the company would not intimidate. Together, the founders are referred to as “manang” in the newsroom – a Filipino word favorite for an older sister.

Bia Kupin, a senior reporter, said she entered the meeting “kind of confused and a little worried” but left feeling optimistic. “It was clear that our Manangra was going to fight, so I think it helped a lot of us, the youngsters of the rapper,” Mrs. Kapin said. “It was like: ‘Okay, maybe we can do it.'”

Founded in 2012, the news agency reveals how some of the people killed by the police did not fight, as authorities said, but were briefly executed instead. Those responsible have been asked to be held accountable.

Mr Duterte, in his 2017 state speech, single-handedly responded to the rapper, saying it violated the Philippine Constitution “entirely owned by Americans”. In 2018, after the government announced the revocation of the website’s license, Mr. Duterte said it was not a political decision but called the agency a “fake news center.”

In July of that year, The Philippine Court of Appeals asked the regulator to reconsider the case, allowing the rapper to remain open – for the time being.

In February 2011, authorities arrested Mrs. Resa and a researcher in a defamation case involving an article published four months before their enactment. In June 2020, Mrs. Resa was convicted of the charges for which she is appealing.

The attack made Mrs. Resa more determined than ever. “When you are attacked, all the friction of a news agency, they die, especially with the mission of journalism, if you know what you should do,” he said in an interview. “I think it has been incredibly empowered and it gives us strength.”

“You get tired and you get scared. But I have three co-founders. We run away in fear,” he said. “We’re never scared at the same time.”

As CEO, Mrs. Resa manages the newsroom’s business and technical activities. To meet the risk of harm to advertisers due to Duterte’s attack, Rappler has put his resources into data-driven projects and subscriptions. Even with a newsroom of just 15 journalists, it launched more podcasts and short videos during the epidemic, allowing the company to be profitable in 2020.

Mrs. Resa and her co-founder “People Power” cut their teeth as journalists during the uprising, which toppled President Ferdinand Marcos in the mid-1990s. A black funeral wreath was once delivered to Mrs. Gloria’s family door. Mrs. Frondoso was once thrown into prison with her newborn child.

Newsroom leaders of about 100 people say a part of the fearless is being prepared. Ms Gloria said the company was preparing for four scenes: an arrest, an operation, a jail and a shutdown. In February 2020, a dry run of a campaign was so realistic that staff, none of whom were knowledgeable, started broadcasting it on the website’s Facebook Live platform.

The fight for media freedom is now more complex than it was in the 1980s, Ms Gloria said, “because reputable attacks are deceptive, systematic and widespread.”

“If you are a Filipino journalist who is paid less and works in an environment that is not exactly safe, economically and financially, your only asset is your reputation,” said Mrs. Gloria. “But when you are attacked online by a troll army and you make allegations of corruption and baseless claims, you lose that right.

“Our young journalists are going through and going through this, and it has made them a little harder in terms of their courage,” he said.

The company advises to deal with trolls: involve people and tell lies. Report the threat to Facebook immediately. And use investigative skills to uncover those behind trolling.

Like many newsrooms in the United States, the applause today raises questions about what it means to be objective, especially in an environment where press freedom is restricted. Paparno Esmaquel II, the rappalar news editor, said one of the questions he asked interviewers was how they felt about attacking the news agency. He said there should be no desirable-smoky answer.

“People think we just have to be transcribers and stenographers. This is not supposed to happen, ”said Mr. Ishmael said. “Your very existence is under threat, and if you don’t fight, what are you?”

Jason Guterres Report contributions.

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