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The Discourse director of communities Anita Li (left) and CEO/founder Erin Millar (right) with Maria Ressa at a Journalist for Human Rights event on Jan. 25.

Arrested, detained and back in the newsroom

Filipina journalist Maria Ressa keeps reporting in one of the deadliest places to be a journalist

This is from our weekly Discourse newsletter. Make sure to share it and subscribe here.


Journalists are democracy’s first line of defence, says award-winning Filipina journalist Maria Ressa — and it’s being attacked.

Ressa, a seasoned investigative reporter and Time magazine Person of the Year, was arrested in Manila this week on cyber-libel charges for a 2012 story alleging that a powerful businessman had links to human trafficking and illegal drugs. She was later released on bail.

After spending a night in custody, she’s already back in the newsroom demanding accountability from the same government that arrested her. Ressa’s news site, Rappler, has been covering Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs campaign, which has resulted in the deaths of anywhere between 5,000 (according the government) and 20,000 people (according to human rights groups).  

“How many people have been killed in the drug war? Why is it so difficult to get real numbers on the drug war?” she tweeted after her release.  

Although press freedom in the Philippines continues decline — making it one of the deadliest places in Asia to be a journalist, according to Reporters without Borders — that isn’t stopping Ressa. “We’re calling on our people to demand that their rights be protected, she tweeted. “We call on journalists to demand truth so we can hold power to account.”  

Here in Canada we’re among the top 20 countries when it comes to press freedom. But there’s still room for improvement, says Reporters Without Borders. In the last decade, we’ve seen the closure of over 260 news outlets. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled a VICE reporter had to hand over his notes to the RCMP. Another reporter is facing unprecedented criminal and civil charges for covering a protest in Newfoundland.

Do you feel like democracy is under attack here in Canada? Why or why not? Send us an email and let us know what you think. I’ll share some of your responses in an upcoming newsletter.

Did you hear?

  • Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from the Liberal cabinet dominated Canada’s news cycle this week. So PM JT is taking a strange new approach to dealing with the scandal, denying he even knows “Jody” — well, at least as imagined by satirical news site Walking Eagle News.
  • The New York Times published a story about “about sexism, double standards and voter behavior” when women run for office. It got positive feedback, but also received backlash from people who said The Times is too focused on gender. Politics editor Patrick Healy defended the article in this Twitter thread, saying, “Sexism and double standards are very real in politics — many women face harsh judgments about ambition, looks, personality, likability, while many men do not.”
  • Here’s some history you can groove to: Discourse member and hip-hop educator Michael Grandsoult shared “AfriCanuck,” an original song he wrote what he describes as an “AfriCanadian history anthem and lesson.” Plug your headphones in for this one.
  • Looking for a unique internship at one of Canada’s most exciting media start-ups? (That’s us.) We’re accepting applications from emerging journalists to participate in a 12-week paid summer internship program focused on data and education reporting starting May 2019. Check out the details here.

Updates from Scarborough.

If your blood boils every time you hear a politician make an empty promise about better public transportation, if you depend on the bus to get around or even if you just tell transit tales as an icebreaker at parties, we want to hear from you.

On Thursday, Feb. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m., Scarborough Discourse will host our second Story Circle. Our first one was about media coverage in Scarborough where community members told us that they were tired of only hearing about crime and gangs.

This time, we’re focusing on transit.

But our Story Circle won’t involve the same ol’ subway versus Light Rapid Transit debate. Our goal is to provide a space for community members to speak directly to city councillors, and to learn about underreported solutions to Scarborough’s transit problems. No talking points are allowed —just tell us your lived experiences.

If you live in Scarborough, RSVP here. If you don’t live in Scarborough, email me your public transit woes, big bus-ideas and subway solutions, which we’ll share in an upcoming newsletter.

Shout-outs.

Thanks to Ted and Michael who told me about the famous folk legend, Black cowboy John Ware, after we published our last newsletter about Black History Month. The stories of Ware’s incredible horsemanship, feats of strength and courage are mixed with legend, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. But one thing is certain: He helped shape what would become Alberta in super-white and Eurocentric 19th-century Canada.

Mike visited John Ware’s repaired cabin in Dinosaur Park, Alta. last summer, and shared some pics with us.

This summer, Michael visited John Ware’s recreated cabin in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alta.

My second shout-out goes to Nabeel Ahmed who shared 32 names of people to add to our list of experts of colour. Nabeel is a researcher who specializes in urban policy, data governance, public-sector transformation and social entrepreneurship. He’s written about the challenges facing Toronto’s waterfront and the dichotomy of the city’s booming tech industry and high child-poverty rates. Thanks x32, Nabeel!

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