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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 26, 2020 4:30am-5:01am BST

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one month after the death of george floyd in police custody, in minneapolis, the us house of representatives has passed a police reform bill. however, the legislation, which bans chokeholds and racial profiling, is expected to face opposition in the republican—dominated senate. the us is facing a new coronavirus spike after lockdown restrictions were relaxed. texas has now suspended plans to further reopen the economy because of a significant rise in covid—19 cases. across the country, a record 35,000 new cases were identified in a single day. there are fears a lack of social distancing could see a spike in uk covid—19 cases after around 500,000 people flocked to a south coast beach on the hottest day of the year. the government's chief medical adviser issued a stark warning about large public gatherings.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. no—one better epitomises any strongman style of leadership than president rodrigo duterte of the philippines. he has a visceral dislike of independentjournalism and no—one knows that better than my guest today, maria ressa, founder of the rappler online news website. she has just been convicted of cyberlibel in a manila court room. so, is president rodrigo duterte‘s populism strangling press freedom? maria ressa in manila,
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thank you forjoining hardtalk. thank you, stephen. starting with your personal situation, earlier this month, you were convicted on this charge of cyberlibel, as they called it. has it changed things for you? aside from the emotional roller—coaster and the fact we have crossed yet another divide, i think i'm on the same race i have been on for the last four years, which is really standing up for my rights both as a filipino and as a journalist. you are on bail and i think your legal team said there will be an appeal. do you, in any sense, feel frightened right now? you know, stephen, i have gone through this. when you have been under attack for four years, as we have been, there have been all the stages — like the stages of grief, right? in 2016, we were pummelled on social media, exponential attacks that are extremely visceral and take you by surprise,
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the viciousness of it. the same narratives in 2017 came out of the government's mouth. president rodrigo duterte himself then began to equate journalists with criminals and then, in 2018, 11 cases and investigations. i was in and out, talking to officials and, 2019, the filing of the cases. i had eight arrest warrants against me filed that year. that was only last year! i was arrested twice, detained once. i feel like alice in wonderland and i am down in a rabbit hole, going out and i will walk out. this verdict that happened on cyberlibel, a story we published before the law we allegedly violated was even in effect, this cements it now, right? that 2016, that
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journalists are criminals. in 2020, after the weaponisation of social media, the weaponisation of the law, and now i am convicted. that is the death of 1,000 cuts of our democracy. there is no doubt it is notjust you that has suffered from repressive tactics coming from government agencies. we can all feel that, but, nonetheless, the notion that all sorts of freedom of expression are now curtailed and eliminated in the philippines, surely is not right. if one looks at your country today, there is still a multitude of diverse opinion across the spectrum of politics. in different platforms on the media, not least rappler itself — after all, your website has not been shut down, it continues to this day, it has millions of eyes on every single month. the philippines is not north korea, nothing like. who would want to be
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in north korea, right? in the end, the philippines is also living under a climate of fear and violence. in fact, when i last interviewed president duterte, when he was already president — i was one of fourjournalists he gave an interview to in 2016 — and i asked him that specifically, i said, "mr president, now that you are in charge of actually protecting the constitution, is it necessary to use violence?" and he said, "yes." he said, "it is necessary to use violence and fear." so while you see what looks like a multitude of voices, imagine that those voices also have a damocles sword hanging over their heads. during the pandemic, people were — based on the post on social media — people were arrested. i think there is a good veneer of legality for all of these
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but we certainly have felt the walls closing in. in order to be able to continue publishing as rappler, look at what i have had to go through! i am just a journalist. my show is called hardtalk, so i have to take seriously the charges against you. absolutely. you have indicated that libel is the least of it. you still face allegations of, my goodness, what a list! fraud, tax evasion, receiving money from the cia. you could be in court for years and years to come? um, well, that's, the only thing i can say is that these charges, the eight criminal charges i'm facing, fall into three buckets. the first is cyberlibel. the second is securities fraud, and in that we will throw—in foreign ownership or foreign control, something violating the anti—dummmy law, and the third is tax evasion.
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again, just like the first case, we were charged with tax evasion about six months after we received an award from the government for being a top corporate taxpayer. then a little more than six months later, we were tax evaders, pushed on social media, and in addition to that, to make this charge, that actually had to redefine rappler from ‘news organisation‘ to a ‘dealer in securities‘ you know, so, sure, let‘s do hardtalk! ifeel like, as a reporter, as someone running a news organisation, i give the government and the president the respect that the office demands, i think, you know, but the kinds of death by 1,000 cuts that we have had to absorb, just to do ourjobs, just to continue doing investigative reporting, i‘ve never lived through anything like this and i‘ve covered south east asia‘s transition from authoritarian 1—man rule
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to democracy, starting here in the philippines in 1986! maria ressa, do you think the filipino public care about your fate and those of other journalists in your country because one looks at duterte‘s approval ratings, they are consistently above 80% approval, the kind of figure that other leaders around the world could only dream about and the filipino public are well aware of what he is doing to the press. i think there are two answers to the question. the first one is the kinds of propaganda machine and how it uses technology to essentially use it as a behavioural modification system and i can explain that more later. the propaganda is exponential and it lifts when you hear president rodrigo duterte is the best, the defender of the poor, even though it is the poor and who are dying in the drug war.
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that is the first step. i think the age of social media, statistical surveys have not been able to keep up with these shifts. the second one is do people care? yes. i can see thatjust based on what has happened and i think this, in particular in 2020, three things have happened: we have had a pandemic, the lockdown. we are just in our 14th week of a very security—driven militaristic lockdown. a lockdown when president rodrigo duterte has told filipinos to stay—at—home and he told troops that if they come out, if we break quarantine, and this is a direct quote, he said "shoot them dead". that did happen. almost, more than 60,000 people have been arrested during this time period and, because we‘re locked down, i think there have been more introspection. the second is... i will stop you there if i may because it is fascinating what you‘re saying but i‘m just
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wondering where your evidence is because i look at the latest polling i can find in the philippines. this is a company i‘m sure you know well, social weather stations. they are widely respected. yes. their measurement suggests that the filipino public as a whole approves, still, of president duterte‘s campaign against illegal drugs, they still seem to favour him, despite all the controversy about his latest anti—terror law, which you and others have described as a fundamental threat to freedom of expression. that‘s the third one. that‘s the third one i was going to say, this anti—terror bill. you have to get real, in a way. everything you say about what duterte is doing is not deterring a really big majority of filipinos from giving him their backing. i think you have to look at the surveys and actually talk to the people who do the surveys and the biggest question you have to ask them is how do you count for fear? before we went to lockdown this was a question i asked all the time because these surveys are done in the homes of people, they have their numbers, they know who they are, they are normally, their names are given by the village chiefs,
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the barangay captains. how do you account for fear? not saying that president duterte is not popular because i think this home—spun, this kind of, the guy you want to have a beer with, the grandfather you want to have the beer with, that is the narrative. that is appealing. having said that, how do you count for fear, right? interesting question and, i tell you what, that plants in my mind a different idea about fear. maybe for you, and let‘s be honest, a relatively elite personality living in a nice part of manila with perhaps more security than most filipinos, it is easy for you to focus on the threats to freedom which you feel and the fear you talk about but what about the other filipinos whose fear is much more street level?
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more about the insecurity? your rappler website has made a point of investigating the drugs war that duterte has initiated for the last 3—4 years but the drugs war, according to most filipinos, have made their streets safer. yes, they look at the fact that hardly any security personnel have been prosecuted for egregious use of violence but they look at the fact that thousands of drug dealers have been taken off the streets, and they like that. i think that is definitely the narrative but if you dig deeper into the surveys, number one, this is based on the un report, one just released a few weeks ago, you can see that the people who die in the drug war are the poor. and you can also see in those surveys, notjust the social weather station‘s, it is also pulse asia, you can see that president duterte‘s support among the poorest of the poor has dwindled significantly compared to the ab, the people who are wealthy, who can cut the deals.
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i always say there are three things that really characterise living under the age of duterte. you have to do one of these three things, the three cs — corrupt, coerce or co—op — and it isn‘t the poor that does that. in fact, i would say that the poor suffers the most. if you look at the brutal drug war, it depends on here talk to, if you talk to the police they will say, "oh, well, maybe about 6,000—7,000 have died." they admit to that. then you took to the human rights groups and they say it is tens of thousands. our own philippine commission on human rights places the number at 27,000. that was several months ago. right? so, no, i think you have to look much deeper into the numbers, look at which of the demographics and look at who is winning and who is losing. let me ask you a personal question, and be brief if you can. sure. as the boss of rappler, which is known for its investigations, including of the drugs war, do you now think
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very carefully before commissioning any reporting that digs into what is happening on the streets? i‘m mindful of the journalists who have been killed this year. more than 100 journalists have been killed in the last couple of decades in the philippines. it is dangerous being a journalist. are you now fearful for your own staff? hmmm, that is a really good question. in a way we have been forged in fire and i think that the biggest lesson we have learnt in the last four years is that when there is a damocles sword hanging over your head, if you let it affect you, then you have lost it. what we have done is we have doubled down on our investigative reporting. we know it‘s really important. we know we have to do this now. so, i don‘t actually make the assignments in rappler but what i see in our team is this renewed commitment. they are tireless. we have a young team. rappler is about 100
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people, we‘re 63% women. the median age is 23 years old. the reporter that president duterte bullied, like he basically faced her down, she was like 26 years old when he did that. so, no, i think that i don‘t have to encourage rappler to do investigative reporting. i think they are doing it on their own and all i‘m trying to do is keep the sky from falling. let‘s talk about international reaction and response to what is going on in the philippines right now. we have international ngos like amnesty international condemning what they call a policy of large—scale murdering, ‘murdering enterprise‘ as they call it. the un human rights 0ffice report saying there is near impunity offered to philippine security personnel, and we also see consistently over the last four years, donald trump has referred
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to president duterte as his friend, we have seen a very close relationship developing between duterte and the chinese government, and we see for example, that the international criminal court, which appeared to be ready to investigate what was happening in the philippines, has essentially been neutralised because the philippines has refused to recognise its legitimacy. the international community, frankly, has let you down, hasn‘t it? i wouldn‘t say that. what i would say is that the philippines is punching above its weight in terms of determining the geopolitical power balance. it really is, when president duterte took office by september, he took office in may 2016, by september 2016 he was in beijing, and he announced a pivot of the philippines, a key country in the south china sea, what we call the west philippines sea, he announced that the philippines would pivot away from the united states to china and russia. he tossed us in.
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what‘s interesting is what happened when the united states pushed against what was happening in the drug war. last december, the us government actually took away the visa of the man who was carrying out the drug war, the philippine national police chief. he is now a senator but they took away his visa under law, and the philippine government was so upset that they cancelled part of the military agreement that has gone on for a long time, this is a very strong relationship, in the past, to the visiting forces, the government cancelled it, but here we go again. just this month, the philippine government gave notice that they were not going to cancel that and it is back up. my point — you are making my point for me.
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whatever the detail of difficulties, geostrategic difficulties in relationship between united states and the philippines, in the end, there seems to be a brotherhood feeling between donald trump and rodrigo duterte. you could argue they are populists of a similar style. they have contempt for much of the media which we have discussed, they both seem to see journalists as enemies of the people, and they both, true to say, have found a way of communicating through social media, through using twitter and facebook platforms in a way that politically is extraordinarily successful. i would agree with you. i think part of what is important — but let me first answer that question you asked. did it let us down? no, absolutely not. i understand the geopolitical power play at work here but it is very similar to what is happening in many democracies around the world, including in the uk.
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this is the role of technology. facebook is internet in the philippines, we spend the most time on the internet, and on social media globally, and i think it is the fifth year running. we are social. what has happened is this kind of astroturfing of manufactured consensus, the manipulation of the public on mass scale, using facebook, it has happened here in the philippines. ask about the popularity of president duterte, that is probably going by a propaganda machine that we got clobbered for exposing in 2016. maria, iwould have to interrupt because that is — so what you are suggesting is that democracy doesn‘t work any more? if you are talking about manipulating public opinions, then you are undermining and delegitimising the notion that
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everyone has a right to choose a government. if you say their opinions are fake orfalse, where is democracy? that‘s exactly what i am saying. democracy is essentially dead and part of what did it is a media platforms that are becoming behavioural modification systems. if you look at what has happened all around the world, starting 2017, studies have shown that cheap armies on social media are cutting down democracy, rolling it back. in 2017 it was in 27 countries, in 2018, double, 2019 it was up 70 countries, and these are different research studies. this is dangerous territory. you are suggesting to me that president duterte, in the end, is illegitimate and doesn‘t have a mandate, when patently on paper, this man has an extraordinary mandate. that not what i‘m saying. first of all he does not have an extraordinary mandate, he was one of five presidential candidates, out of 62 million voters, he had 16 million votes, that is what elected him. he won the majority of the five.
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but beyond that, what i am saying is that the new information ecosystem actually allows lies, laced with anger and hate to spread faster than facts. when a lie is told a million times in today‘s age, when i am attacked a million times, criminal criminal criminal, it becomes a fact, and this is what is wrong. if you don‘t have integrity of fact, you cannot have integrity of markets, and you certainly can‘t have integrity of elections. this is the problem with democracy. a final thought then. i am very mindful that you returned to the philippines from the united states after the people power revolution of 1986, and you made your life in the philippines after that. there was so much hope around then.
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it was a different kind of politics in your country. here is what one filipino lawyer who moved to australia recently has written. he said in terms of corruption, the post— people power government became indistinguishable from the marcos regime. the only difference was the rhetoric of human rights and democracy, which people have increasingly come to regard as a sham. isn‘t that the truth? duterte is in power, and quote unquote, so successful because the post people power politics of the philippines simply failed the people? i think i would agree that post people power was a failure, we had endemic corruption, replaced one set of leaders with another, who then created their own, i mean we have always had the eight oligarch families, but the difference is this. the trickle—down effect didn‘t trickle down. there was a perfect storm,
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and this happened globally, this is part of the reason you are seeing a trend back to a form of i would say almost fascism. because liberal democracy didn‘t deliver its promise. having said that, we should not be moving the other direction, and that is the challenge to every democracy here. part of what is enabling that is social media. when the gatekeepers, the journalists, news organisations used to be gatekeepers, we kept the public sphere, we all agreed on that fact. our new gatekeepers are tech companies, the application of that responsibility has had huge impact on what we‘re seeing now is the, oh my gosh, i‘m going to say fascism all around the world, and this is scary for me, here in the philippines, because we are one of the first signatories from the un declaration
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of human rights, and yet i see filipinos, things i would have thought would have been unbelievable, filipinos are saying it‘s ok to kill. filipinos saying that you know, democracy doesn‘t work. maybe it doesn‘t, but i guess this is where i would like to see filipinos weigh in. we should not look away, we should make an active choice, and when you see your rights getting pushed back, and i saw my rights being violated, and when that happens, are we going to accept that? that will fundamentally change democracy. maybe we should... we have to end, but i‘m thinking, never mind the threat of prison now hanging over your head, you continue this fight? it‘s notjust about prison. the journey is the battle because i think there is so much more at stake. if it was just me, i would be quiet — why not? but there is so much at stake for us right now. i became a journalist in 1986 and i am a journalist today,
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at my most senior. i want to make sure that i do the right thing for democracy, forjournalism. maria ressa, thank you very much indeed for being on hardtalk. hello. thursday brought us, for the third consecutive day, the hottest day of the year so far in the uk. temperatures at heathrow in london reached 33.1; celsius, but if you are not a fan of the heat and the humidity, you will probably be pleased to hear that things
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are now turning fresher. through friday, it will be a cooler day, the chance of some heavy showers and some thunderstorms around too. still quite a mild, muggy start to the morning. first thing friday, those temperatures quite widely in the mid to high teens, could be not shy of 20 degrees for central london first thing friday morning. now, we start with this band of fairly heavy showers and thunderstorms. this is nine o‘clock in the morning. it will be drier down towards the south—west of england and wales. the south—east of england, through the midlands, up towards north and north—west of england into northern ireland as well, that‘s where we are likely to see some of those heavy downpours. and for the western isles, some of them are going to be really heavy and thundery once again. northern and eastern scotland, probably avoiding quite a good deal of those heavy showers. now, across england and wales, they push their way northwards and eastward through the course of the day. so, it‘s much of northern england, north wales into scotland that is going to be seeing some of the heavy showers and thunderstorms. northern ireland seeing fewer, i think, during the afternoon, but they will be hit and miss. it will still feel warm in the east with temperatures around 28, possibly up to around 30 degrees,
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but for many of us, it is turning cooler. into the weekend, fresher conditions moving across the whole of the uk — with some rainfall in the forecast as well. down to the fact that we‘ve got this area of low pressure moving its way in from the west, quite a lot of isobars on the map, as well as those heavy showers rattling around that area of low pressure. so this is how saturday is shaping up then, sunny spells but frequent heavy showers. again with some hail in some lightning mixed in with some of those heavy thunderstorms. quite blustery winds as well, particularly where you do see the heavy showers, the thunderstorms, with hail as well, that‘s where you could see some squally and gusty winds at times too. temperatures quite a bit cooler than recent days, somewhere between about 18—21 celsius for many of us. still a bit of sunshine in between the showers. by the time we get to sunday, the heaviest of the showery rain will be in the north and north—west. a little bit drier further south with a little bit more sunshine on offer, but the winds will be picking up. a blustery fresher feeling day with highs of 15—21 degrees. bye— bye.
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this is bbc news. i‘m david eades with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. an end to chokeholds, a national registry of police misconduct. the us house of represenatives passes a reform bill in the name of george floyd. so what chance of it becoming law? several us states suspend plans to re—open the economy, after a spike in coronavirus cases. doctors say it‘s being driven by young people testing positive. over 80,000 cruise ship workers remain stranded at sea, as governments change their pandemic rules for coming into port. liverpool claim the premier league title, 30 long years


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