At stake is the future of one of the few independent journalistic institutions in the Philippines. With reports of police abuse in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs and stories of corrupt transactions involving local businessmen, Rappler has become a symbol of fearless journalism in a region where the press is constantly hampered.
Rappler reporters recognize that these are difficult times. Access is a problem because of Mr. Duterte’s attacks on them. The psychological burden of being trolled, especially in a newsroom where the median age is only 23, is exhausting. But they still strive to – in Ms. Ressa’s words – “hold the line.” “
They know full well that challenging Mr. Duterte comes at a high price. In January 2018, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission announced it would revoke Rappler’s license to operate, claiming the site had violated foreign ownership laws. The action was widely viewed by human rights activists and other journalists as retaliation for Rappler’s coverage of Mr Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
At a staff meeting soon after, Ms Ressa and her co-founders Lilibeth Frondoso, Glenda Gloria and Chay Hofilena stressed that the company was not going to be intimidated. Together, the founders are called in the newsroom “manangs” – a Filipino term of affection for an older sister.
Bea Cupin, a senior reporter, said she walked into the meeting “a little confused and a little worried” but left full of hope. “It was clear that our manangs were going to fight, so I think that helped a lot of us younger ones in Rappler,” Ms. Cupin said. “It was like, ‘OK, maybe we can do that. “”