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Bozar Bookworms: Samir

Colleagues read authors from our Talks & Debates

In 2024, Bozar will once again be welcoming a good mix of established and emerging talented authors who have taken the leap and written a book. A handful of colleagues headed to the library to read a book by one of the writers or thinkers you’ll be able to meet soon at Bozar. Curious about their findings on Thomas Piketty, Eileen Myles, and Peter Verhelst, among others?

Samir on Maria Ressa ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Press Officer Samir read How to Stand Up to a Dictator (2022) by Maria Ressa, who will be a guest at Bozar on 5 March during the Nobel Prize Dialogue Brussels in partnership with the European Research Council -  “Fact & Fiction: the Future of Democarcy”.


Hi Samir, can you briefly outline what the book is about?

The story of How to stand up to a dictator is on two levels. On the one hand, it is an autobiography where you read Maria Ressa’s trajectory in the Philippines and the US. On the other hand, she takes a closer look at journalism. She talks about how social media has changed news reporting and journalism since the 2000s. More specifically, she talks about the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte between 2016 and 2022, who was able to use social media and news manipulation to convey his populist views to the Philippines. Biography and analysis continuously intertwine in a nice balance.

“Those in power have always attempted to control the narrative, especially during wartime. […] Hold the line; that is the journalist's duty.”
- Maria Ressa

Why did you like reading it?

I work in the press office at Bozar so the journalism aspect was of particular interest to me. As difficult as her situation was, Ressa has always been brave in times of political repression, but also under the pressure she received from colleagues and social circles. She has always stuck to her values: striving for truth without conditions, not compromising on democratic values. And that, according to Ressa, is a collective responsibility. The book inspired me because it is depressing at times, but at the same time, she always remains hopeful and keeps fighting for those values.

“Later, I would realize that an orchestra was a perfect metaphor for a working democracy: the music gave the people our notes, our systems, but how you play, feel, and follow – and how you lead – that all up to you.”
- Maria Ressa

Ressa also talks passionately about the arts. For example, she talks about the power of music and theatre, and how these can bring comfort in difficult times.

Why do we need to come to Bozar to see her?

Ressa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021. During the Nobel Prize Dialogue, she will share the stage with other Nobel laureates, leading thinkers, policymakers, and researchers. No doubt she will share her views on the current state of the world in times of elections and war.

Who would you recommend this book to?

To everyone! It is important or interesting for everyone to read how fragile our democracy can be, how strongly social media can influence us, and how much power technology companies have. Maria Ressa also refers to very current issues such as the war in Ukraine and the US elections.

The book is a readable, much-needed plea for journalistic integrity, vigilance, and transparency.

How many stars do you give the book?