News just broke that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is an astounding demonstration of the extent to which Ressa had managed to hoodwink an entire profession into lapping up her dishonest narrative of “attacks” on “press freedom” being supposedly perpetrated by the Philippine government. Al Jazeera reports that Ressa, along with Russian Dmitry Muratov “were given the prestigious award ‘for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia,’ Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said on Friday.”
One wonders if this Norwegian Nobel Committee actually did their homework. It seems all they did was consult members of a vast echo chamber that envelopes much of Western Big Corporate News Media. Indeed, if they had, in fact, used “journalists” as resources in their “research”, it all the more makes Ressa’s win quite suspect. Across a large swathe of this community seems to be a common denominator — eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. In their article “How One of America’s Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape”, Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal write…
With offices in Washington, Silicon Valley, and six foreign countries, the Omidyar Network propagates the neoliberal ideology of its billionaire namesake through “impact investing” and a “property rights” initiative. Outside the U.S., the Omidyar Network funds an array of foreign media outlets, like Ukraine’s Hromadske and the Philippines-based Rappler, that have participated in pro-Western information warfare-style campaigns against rogue governments. In Zimbabwe, where the Omidyar Network supports a series of oppositional youth organizing initiatives through the Magambe Network, an Omidyar employee was arrested, accused of attempting to stir up a revolt through online organizing, and ultimately released (the incident is detailed later in this article). This February 12, Rappler editor-in-chief Maria Ressa was arrested as well, accused of “cyber-libel” by the Filipino government for a 2012 article. The Omidyar Network and the Omidyar-funded Committee to Protect Journalists have set up a $500,000 legal defense fund for Ressa.
Back in 2019, under intense grilling by Ezra Levant, “Rebel Commander” at The Rebel in a conference on “media freedom” hosted by Omidyar, Ressa inadvertently admitted that she had received $4.5 million in funding from Omidyar.
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Interestingly, Levant’s question was initially directed to Nishant Lalwani, Director of Investments of the Omidyar Group challenging the sense of his hosting such a conference when, Levant points out, “no one here is not on your payroll”.
Lalwani then categorically stated, “we gave some money to Rappler…” after which he was abruptly cut off by Ressa who then proceeded to hijack the rest of the response to Levant’s initial query.
Watch the video…
Indeed, Ressa behaved really badly there. She had been discussing an ongoing case she had with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a public forum. To Ressa’s claim that she was “winning” this case, Levant pointed out that “Omidyar gave up his stock,” suggesting that Omidyar had, perhaps, recognised then the risk in his exposure to Rappler.
At some point, Ressa was forced to point out that the amount involved was “only” $4.5 million.
After a few more minutes of Ressa carrying on in her usual shrill manner, Levant finally reminded her that the question was not originally addressed to her — perhaps recognising the disproportionate defensiveness she had just exhibited.
Clearly Maria Ressa was being absolutely dishonest in her so-called “advocacy” to “protect” whatever “press freedom” was, she insists, “under threat” in the Philippines. The truth is, this was, even then, a time-wasting sorry excuse of an advocacy manufactured by a discredited thought leader to whitewash the utterly failed venture called Rappler.
Earlier that same year, no less than the Associated Press (AP) itself fell victim to Ressa’s lies. The AP had to delete a tweet it posted and implied that it was misled by statements provided by Ressa…
The AP deleted a Wednesday tweet on journalist Maria Ressa’s arrest. It incorrectly said she was arrested for criticizing Philippine President Duterte. Authorities said she was arrested over a libel complaint, but Ressa argues the government misapplied the law to target her.
This was a landmark retraction by a major news media organisation as many others continued to “report” misleading information about Ressa’s arrest on charges of libel.
Erstwhile respected “journalist” Christiane Amanpour, for example, seemingly stood by the very significantly slanted take on the matter that the AP now distances itself from…
You know a government is desperate when they arrest a journalist.
President Duterte: FREE @mariaressa NOW.
Evidently, Amanpour needed to be reminded of the most relevant fact of this matter — that only a Philippine court can decide on that which she called for.
On reflection, it would have been a reasonable ask at the time that the rest of the global “journalism” community get a grip and step back from all the misleading emotionalism kicked up by Ressa in her desperation to sidestep the task she was being taken to back then. It could have been an opportune time for the community to revisit the core values of the journalism profession and understand the root cause of the crisis of relevance and credibility that the corporate news media industry suffers today.
Respected Filipino columnists were already on to Ressa even further back. In his January 2018 Inquirer column, Oscar Franklin Tan pointed out the dishonesty in the public statements Rappler had been publishing about her case after the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a shutter order to Rappler for violation of constitutional provisions banning foreign control of media businesses in the country. Notable among these was the idea that the SEC move was the start of some sort of “assault on press freedom” being mounted by the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. According to Tan, this was not consistent with the SEC position which was very clear on the specific items in regulation surrounding the issuance of the types of funding agreements in question. The SEC report pointed out that clauses that extend “veto rights” are provided in Rappler‘s agreement with its foreign funder Omidyar Network. These rights are not found in similar instruments issued by ABS-CBN and GMA to their respective investors.
Indeed, the SEC order did not, in any way, present a future threat to any other news media network. This was all about Rappler‘s violation of the Constitution. And the threat to “press freedom” was all in the minds of Ressa and her Rapplerettes.
If there had been any actual threat to “free speech”, it could be found in how Rappler went about reporting about its own predicament at the time. Rather than highlight the true facts surrounding its case which all pointed not just to Ressa’s negligence as CEO but to a seemingly deliberate effort mounted by her company to circumvent corporate regulation, Rappler‘s reporters put up mere strawmen.
Ressa and her henchwomen were actually the ones abusing their freedom by baldly misleading the public. Tan put it quite succinctly: “Free speech cannot justify Rappler’s misleading coverage of Rappler”. Ressa should heed the words of the venerable Oprah Winfrey: Time is up. So is the jig.
Rappler had, at many times since it sprung up seemingly out of nowhere in 2012, been all but exposed as a non-viable business venture and, worse, a channel out of which dishonest journalism is served to an unwitting Filipino public. Norway is a long way from the steaming Philippine political and business scene both culturally and geographically. If the trustees of the venerable Nobel Foundation value the brand equity of their hallowed “Peace Prize”, they should revisit their decision to award it to Maria Ressa. Do a bit of homework. Talk to real Filipinos. It really can’t be that hard.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.