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Maria Ressa raises hope for championing democracy

maria ressa raises hope for championing democracy

In the spirit of International Women’s Month, Vogue Philippines’ March 2024 issue, themed “Raising Hope,” features Maria Ressa, the co-founder and CEO of Rappler.

Ressa’s journey, marked by a Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, and her leadership at Rappler, a women-led digital news site she co-founded, exemplifies the fight for a free and fair press. 

Despite facing immense pressure and legal battles during the Duterte administration in the Philippines, Rappler has emerged as a profitable entity and a model for future global news organizations. 

“At the time, people were asking, ‘How do you have courage to stand up against Duterte?’ That was a very difficult question to answer because I didn’t even think it was courage. It comes down to your values,” she says in the Vogue interview.

This success story is not just about financial viability but about maintaining journalistic integrity in the face of systemic threats to democracy.

At the heart of Ressa’s narrative is a belief in the importance of journalism as a pillar of democracy. 

With the advent of social media giants and generative AI, she warns of the challenges facing news organizations, where the battle for traffic and audience engagement threatens the very essence of news dissemination. 

Yet, Ressa views these challenges as opportunities for innovation and adaptation, steering Rappler into a diversified business model that transcends traditional advertising revenue.

Ressa’s life story, detailed in her book “How To Stand Up to a Dictator,” reveals the foundational experiences that shaped her moral compass. 

“The entire book was to try to explain how these lines you define when you’re much younger actually lead to the person you become, and how these values are transcended, and how they create your actions in the future,” Ressa shared.

From a rough childhood life and personal challenges to her formative years in journalism, Ressa’s journey is a reflection of her values and determination. 

Her early experiences of injustice and bullying forged a path of resistance against corruption and dictatorship, guiding her through the complexities of leading a news organization under siege.

Rappler’s resiliency is further strengthened by its dedication to community participation like projects such as Rappler Communities. 

This digital platform aims to foster informed discussions, challenging the divisive and polarizing nature of algorithm-driven social networks. 

Ressa’s vision extends beyond mere survival; it’s about setting a precedent for responsible journalism and creating a space for critical discourse.

As Ressa collaborates with international figures like Amal Clooney and leverages her platform to advocate for press freedom globally, her story transcends borders. 

It is a call to action for journalists, policymakers, and citizens to uphold the values of democracy, transparency, and accountability.

As Maria Ressa celebrates her 60th birthday, her reflection on a life of no regrets and her commitment to the truth serves.

“The more you do the right thing, the easier your path becomes“ Maria Ressa emphasized.

In a world grappling with the loss of democratic norms and the rise of digital dictators, Ressa’s legacy is a reminder of the resilience of women’s empowerment in the enduring power of standing and speaking up for what is right. 

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