The Dictator's Playbook Revisited with Maria Ressa

June 16, 2020

We are saddened to learn that on June 15, 2020, Maria Ressa was convicted of cyber libel in the Philippines, along with her colleague, Ray Santos, Jr. Both are out on bail, and are appealing the decision, but they face up to six years in prison. Press freedom watchdog groups around the world have criticized the court’s decisions as a direct attack on a democratic media outlet by the Duterte administration. 

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Maria said: “For years, I have been targeted by the authorities, by bot armies, paid trolls, and fake news websites. But I will not be silenced. I will fight this conviction, and I will continue to do my duty to speak out and report the truth.” 

In honor of Maria’s work, we are re-releasing our interview with her, because unfortunately it remains as timely as ever. And we also recommend that people see the documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” about Maria. If you’d like to support journalists who are working in this area, you can donate to organizations like Committee to Protect Journalists, or Reporters Without Borders or the Freedom of the Press Foundation, who are all working to support the freedom of the press worldwide.

[This episode originally aired on November 5, 2019] Maria Ressa is arguably one of the bravest journalists working in the Philippines today. As co-founder and CEO of the media site Rappler, she has withstood death threats, multiple arrests and a rising tide of populist fury that she first saw on Facebook, in the form of a strange and jarring personal attack. Through her story, she reveals, play by play, how an aspiring strongman can use social media to spread falsehoods, sow confusion, intimidate critics and subvert democratic institutions. Nonetheless, she argues Silicon Valley can reverse these trends, and fast. First, tech companies must "wake up," she says, to the threats they've unleashed throughout the Global South. Second, they must recognize that social media is intrinsically designed to favor the strongman over the lone dissident and the propagandist over the truth-teller, which is why it has become the central tool in every aspiring dictator's playbook.


Maria Ressa is a Filipino-American journalist, author, and co-founder and CEO of Rappler, a news site based in Manila.

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