DemWorks Video: A Conversation with TIME Person of the Year Maria Ressa

NDI 2017 Democracy Award recipients with (right to left) Secretary Madeleine Albright, Maria Ressa (Rappler), Margo Gontar (StopFake.org), Dr. Phil Howard (Oxford Internet Institute). Photo credit: Margot Schulman

Celebrating “women risk takers,” this video focuses on #DemocracyHero Maria Ressa, a veteran journalist and the CEO of Rappler, the leading independent online news network in the Philippines that has been at the forefront of combating disinformation and exposing human rights abuses under the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. For their critical reporting, Maria and her fellow independent journalists have been indicted multiple times on questionable charges. Maria herself has been arrested twice. Maria’s courage has been globally recognized. Among many accolades, she is a recipient of NDI’s Democracy Award in 2017, and TIME magazine’s Person of the Year award in 2018.

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Making Democracy Popular: Corruption, Populism & Brazil

Brazilians take to the streets to protest rampant government corruption on March 13, 2016.  Photo by Agencia Brazil (CC BY 3.0 BR)

What do Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez have in common? They’ve all been branded as populists, both celebratorily and scathingly. As Brazil heads to elections on October 7, all eyes are on ultra-conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro – who brazenly rejects political correctness, defends Brazil’s authoritarian past and promises to upend the establishment – as the latest in a line of political strongmen turning citizen malaise into electoral success. Charismatic populist leaders present society as divided into two separate and homogeneous entities: the corrupt elite, and the pure people who the corrupt have oppressed. Proclaiming their direct link to the people (often enabled by social networks), they tend to eschew representative institutions and checks and balances. While left-wing populists take a class-based approach pitting working and middle-class people against a greedy economic elite, right-wing populists typically define the people as an exclusive group along ethnic, racial or national lines.

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The distributed denial of democracy

Social media and the Internet have had a drastic effect on the surprise results of yesterday’s election in the United States, driving the spread of information—and misinformation—at times bringing voters together and, perhaps more often, pushing them apart. As the spotlight shifts off of the U.S. in the aftermath of November 8, it’s important to recognize that this is not a uniquely American trend. More than half of Internet users now report using social media as a primary source of news, according to a study across 26 countries, and more than one quarter call it their main news source. In developing countries where reliable news sources are more limited, those numbers may be even higher. As reliance on social media and the Internet for news and information rises exponentially, political discourse is also rapidly moving online. A free and open Internet, where citizens can engage in fair dialogue and access accurate information, is thus critical to modern democracy and human rights.

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What Became of the People Power Revolution? Observations and Impressions of Philippines Elections 1986 and Now

Larry Garber meeting with Jose Concepcion Jr, the first chair of NAMFREL on the day before the 2016 Philippines elections

The 1986 Philippines snap presidential election serves as a lodestar for international democratic activists who came of age professionally during the 1980s. The successful People Power Revolution demonstrated the role that electoral participation could play in mobilizing a population to reject a fraudulent process and to overthrow a dictator. And it introduced the international community to such concepts as “domestic election monitoring” and “parallel vote tabulations,” which are now core components of the menu used by democracy promoters around the globe. Indeed, since 1986, Filipino activists have frequently been called upon to share their experiences with those contemplating how best to challenge entrenched authoritarian regimes. I observed these developments in the Philippines first-hand.

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