Journalist Maria Ressa reminded the Gen Z about their role in combating disinformation nowadays.
During the launch of her book How to Stand Up Against a Dictator at the University of the Cordilleras in Baguio on March 6, Ressa, 59, said it's today's generation that bears the brunt of dealing with lies and hatred especially in social media.
"Matanda na kami," Ressa said during the book launch's open forum. "My generation today...we kind of lost it," she added. "You're inheriting a world where climate change is set to extinguish us. It is existential."
Ressa, the first Filipino individual to become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, noted how much is at stake because smartphones have made facts "debatable," and social media platforms like Facebook wants to "hack" the emotions of users.
"Please don't be daunted," Ressa told the younger generation. "This is a time when we can act. And we must."
"Sometimes, we battle the scars of the past. And we need the energy of the youth to anchor us and build better forward," she added.
In any case, she said one has to learn to leave emotions behind when gathering facts. She cited as example how former Vice President Leni Robredo lost the May 2022 elections, and how there's no hard evidence of electoral fraud as claimed by a number of Robredo's supporters. By the same token, she said Marcos Jr. is the president with the most international trips during his first 100 days in office.
"What do we do as journalists? We hold the administration accountable for corruption—if we see it," she said.
"We will weigh on the side of evidence...of truth. You have to leave your emotions behind. And boy, do I have a lot of emotions. But I've learned to take anger and bury it at the pit my stomach so we can have clarity of thought."
Ressa's proposed long-term solution to combat disinformation is through reforms in education. A medium-term solution, she noted, would be legislation.
But in the short-term, she said it's through the journalists who have the job of asking the tough questions.
"We need to work together now ever than before because it's the only way to fight back against the lies," she said.
In her How to Stand Up to a Dictator, Ressa addresses how disinformation in social media allowed the spread of a virus of lies that infect users, pitting us against one another and how it has accelerated the rise of authoritarians and dictators around the world.
She also talked about her life as a journalist and how she and Rappler, the news website she had co-founded, faced harassment and legal attacks for their critical reportage during the Rodrigo Duterte administration.
It was first launched in December 2022. It has since been a bestseller in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
Ressa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021 for their efforts to "safeguard freedom of expression."