Resilience when working under intense political pressure – experiences from Rappler, Philippines
Rappler is today's leading and first online-only news website in the Philippines. Rappler stories aim to provide perspective and inspire community engagement. It was founded by four female journalists, who wanted to use the advantages of the internet to encourage smart conversations and action for social change, especially among a young audience. Since 2017, several judicial charges have been filed against Rappler and the organization's perseverance in upholding its right to freedom of expression has gained international attention.
One of the co-founders, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, has been personally targeted by President Duterte and his government since he gained power in 2016. The attacks – online and offline – culminated in 2019 when Maria Ressa was arrested for "cyberlibel" and later found guilty by a court in Manila. That decision is under appeal. Her arrest was perceived as a politically motivated attempt to silence her, as she is an outspoken critic of the current Philippine administration. In 2020, she was charged with cyberlibel again, this time for re-tweeting a screenshot of an article.
Rappler has a diverse strategy that has allowed it to continue operating even in the face of arrest threats, cyberlibel charges, social media attacks, doxxing, and defamation. The media organization's business strategies have evolved
over time and adapted to these threats. Rappler has put in place the necessary security measures both online and offline, and it has continued to innovate. It built Sharktank, a database of public Facebook posts and pages, and discovered that the exponential attacks on social media aimed at Rappler originated from an organized propaganda machine of the Duterte administration. Government officials and government accounts were found to be attacking administration critics and were behind the creation of fake accounts to manipulate the public. Nevertheless, Rappler succeeded in establishing a strong bond with its audience in a country with one of the lowest levels of audience trust in news worldwide. This was also fostered by a strong international support network, which has led to expanding global awareness of Maria Ressa’s situation.
Top 5 recommendations for resilience when working under intense political pressure
"Embrace your fear. Shine the light and tell the world. We prioritize three existential battles: truth, climate, health."
Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, co-founder, and CEO, Rappler, Philippines