Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is keynote speaker at this year’s SOPA Awards

Maria Ressa, CEO of embattled Filipino publisher Rappler, will be traveling to Hong Kong this June to attend The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards as the event’s keynote speaker. 

Ressa, who was in Perugia, Italy, on Friday to speak at a panel at this year’s International Journalism Festival, shared in a phone interview with Coconuts Manila her thoughts on journalism and its importance in today’s world.

“This is a time of creative destruction. A time when democracies need journalists more than ever to stay vibrant and safe, at the same time, journalism has never been under such threat,” she said.

To her, these threats include attacks on credibility, as seen in the proliferation of fake news, and problems with the media’s existing business models.

Ressa is dealing with these problems herself. Last week, Facebook announced that it has partnered with Rappler to fact-check news, a move to lessen fake news in the platform.

Rappler has also moved away from traditional online advertising models and is now focused on creating branded content and organizing summits and workshops.

Even with these problems, Ressa is optimistic about the future: “There will be a flight back to quality… I’m convinced that will happen,” she said.

Rappler is currently fighting at least five cases, including the revocation of their license, which they’ve raised to the Court of Appeals, and cyber libel and tax cases.

Still, Ressa said it is business as usual for their journalists.

“We’ll fight them all. We have no choice, right? We have to hold the line,” she said.

And for her, this is why the SOPA Awards is important.

“I think we need to celebrate the wins, which is what SOPA is all about. We need to celebrate what journalism, great journalism, [is],” Ressa said.

“What does it look like? And can great journalism survive the challenges of our times? Obviously, you know, for me, absolutely. It must. A lot depends on that.”

Past SOPA Awards keynote speakers included Hong Kong businessman and publisher Jimmy Lai and Filipino investigative journalist Sheila Coronel, now the dean of academic affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Last year, they were joined via video by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten and CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Coconuts has previously earned three SOPAs, most recently last year for Coconuts Yangon Managing Editor Jacob Goldberg’s piece “Aung San Suu Kyi is making wartime rape easier to commit,” which won an award for Excellence in Opinion Writing.

In 2016, the story “A Portrait of Mui Thomas” by then-Coconuts Hong Kong editor Laurel Chor won in the Feature Photography category, and in 2015, the story “Hidden in Plain Sight” by the Coconuts Bangkok team earned an honorable mention for feature writing.

This year’s SOPA Awards will be held on Wednesday, June 13, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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