Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa brings her fight for truth to Hawaii

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Philippine journalist Maria Ressa honored in Hawaii
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 4:47 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii senators and Filipino organizations honored Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Philippine journalist Maria Ressa at the State Capitol on Monday.

Ressa wasn’t celebrated widely in her native country when she won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for defending press freedom and fighting misinformation in the Philippines.

But Hawaii lawmakers say she deserved to be recognized here.

She is the first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize winner and some see her as the “David” in the war against the “Goliath” of Facebook and the Duterte administration.

“Thank you, President Duterte, I think,” Ressa said, jokingly.

“I haven’t done anything differently from when I became a journalist in 1986. It takes a lot more courage to just stand by your values. But, and this is the last part, please remember the goodness of humanity.

“That’s the part that technology is slowly taking away. It is doing an ‘us against them.’ Avoid this.”

Retired educator and Philippine activist Belinda Aquino, co-founder of the Center for Philippine Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, was among the attendees.

“She’s not afraid. Which is really why she really should be commended beyond words,” she said.

This support is not what Ressa normally gets in the Philippines, where she is founder and CEO of digital news company Rappler.

Ressa was arrested in 2019 on multiple charges including cyber libel and tax evasion ― attempts, her supporters say, to silence her and Rappler’s critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

Hawaii venture capitalist Pierre Omidyar was an early investor in Rappler, a foreign relationship the Philippine government claims is illegal. Ressa is also a polarizing figure for Filipinos in Hawaii. The majority support president Duterte and former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose son takes office as president next month ― 36 years after his father fled to Hawaii.

Critics say his landslide victory was fueled by a social media misinformation campaign

“Many support what she is fighting against,” said Kit Furukawa, who flew from Maui to meet Ressa.

“And that’s a little hard to reconcile, you know, inside inside of me. But I feel like I’m on the right side of history for this one.”

Ressa wants people to understand how authoritarian governments use social media to sow distrust and doubt in democratic institutions. It’s a timely message as several countries head into a critical election year.

“We have so much toxicity in the marketplace right now. Polarized environment. So I think having Maria Ressa I think we need to escalate who’s what she represents,” said state Sen. Bennette Misalucha.

Ressa received court approval to travel to Honolulu to speak at the East West Center international media conference Tuesday.

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