June 4, 2023

Ressa couldn’t depress you if she tried. The 58-year-old journalist is a beloved figure on the world stage, unsparing about the road we’re on—and the effects of social media in particular—but curious, charismatic, and kind to everyone she meets. When Ressa won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize (along with the Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov), ​​she became a global personification of bravery and the battle for truth over disinformation. She and her reporters at Rappler have critically covered the former Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, earning the consequences of his ire in the process. Ressa has been arrested twice and is facing a cyber-libel conviction and tax-related charges that could lead to decades of imprisonment. She must ask permission to leave the country (“I don’t pack until I get approval. I’m a maniac after I get approval”). She and her staff have been targeted by brutal trolling and threats on Facebook, which is ubiquitous in the Philippines, and all the more toxic for it. Her Nobel speech in Oslo was blunt: “Technology, with its godlike power, has allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger, and hate.” But her rhetoric soared, too—and she ended that speech with her hands clasped together in a communal hymn to hope: “Please, with me, close your eyes and imagine the world as it should be,” she said. “A world of peace, trust, and empathy, bringing out the best that we can be. We have to make it happen.”

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We’re not there yet—nowhere near, Ressa says, as we sit together over a coffee at the downtown hotel where she’s staying—and she has every reason to be pessimistic. It is just days after her country’s presidential election, which delivered a landslide win to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of the Philippines’ late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos’s social media–heavy campaign was suffused with populist nostalgia, reimagining his father’s brutal rule as a “golden age.” “You know what he campaigned on his first day?” Ressa says. “Make the Philippines ‘Great Again.’ ”

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