Maria Ressa

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Maria Ressa co-founded Rappler, the top digital only news site that is leading the fight for press freedom in the Philippines. As Rappler’s CEO, Maria has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the previous Filipino government headed by Rodrigo Duterte and forced to post bail ten times to stay free. Rappler’s battle for truth and democracy is the subject of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival documentary, A Thousand Cuts.


In October 2021, Maria was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”


In her talks, Maria connect the dots as to how social media and recent technological developments often deceives and entrenches political power, a dilemma that we all face.


For her courage and work on disinformation and ‘fake news,’ Maria was named one of Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time’s Most Influential Women of the Century.


Before co-founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN’s Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before moving to Indonesia and opening the network’s Jakarta bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. That was when she returned to Manila as the senior vice president in charge of ABS-CBN’s multimedia news operations, managing almost a thousand journalists for the largest news organization in the country.


Maria’s most recent book, How to Stand Up to a Dictator, was released in November 2022 and has been translated into 20 languages with more to come in 2024. It is an urgent cry for readers worldwide to recognize and understand the dangers to our freedoms before it is too late.


She is an inaugural Carnegie Distinguished Fellow at Columbia University’s newly launched Institute of Global Politics, where she leads projects related to artificial intelligence and democracy. In July 2024, she will join the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as a professor of professional practice.


Maria focuses critical attention on the breakdown of our global information ecosystem and how interconnected communities of action can hold the line to protect democratic values. She now travels the world speaking to organizations of all kinds on democracy, how to keep it, and freedom of the press.


How to Stand up to a Dictator, Maria’s third book, is an urgent cry for readers worldwide to recognize and understand the dangers to our freedoms before it is too late.


Translated into 18 languages, How to Stand up to a Dictator is now available in the U.K. through Penguin Books and available worldwide via Harper Collins.


Maria now travels the world speaking to organizations of all kinds on freedom of the press, democracy, corporate governance and the effects of social media on democracy.


Speaking Topics - 


Technology’s impact on democracy

Social media companies have become the dominant source of news and information. The distributors of news and information gain power. To grow and increase power, the platforms require continuously increasing viewers which drives advertising revenue.


Social media platforms have discovered that pushing viewers to the extreme left or right increases engagement which increases ad revenue. To achieve this, the platforms develop algorithms designed to spread lies, laced with hate and anger.


Technology, once heralded as an enabler, is now the destroyer. How can we re-orient social media platforms to bring us together rather than divide us?


In this talk, Maria explains how we went off the rails but, more importantly, how we can right the train.


The Fight for Democracy

In this talk, Maria discusses how today’s style of leadership, us against them, sexism, and misogyny has given everyone to be their worst selves in many ways.


Democracies rely on elections but as we’ve been manipulated before the elections, where’s the freedom of will? Without free will, we are simply carrying out the wishes of the manipulators. How do we protect democracy when surrounded by manipulation?


Maria describes the four-layer pyramid that was successfully executed in the most recent Philippines election:

  • Hashtag facts through social and traditional media
  • The Mesh of civil society, NGOs, human rights, and business groups
  • Academia research groups
  • Legal groups from the left, right, and center working together


This is the time to act. Don’t bury your head in the sand. This is an existential moment and we either fight for our democracy or we lose our rights.


Maria Ressa's Experiences

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Virtual In-Person

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"Her remarks were insightful, engaging and inspiring. She explained in a lively and interesting way a very complex and sophisticated story, drawing on current events and data. A real feast for the brain and the heart."

Massey Hall – April 23, 2022

"On behalf of Mediacorp, we would like to thank you for participating in our CNA Leadership Summit 2022: Women Inspiring Change on International Women’s Day, Tuesday, 8 March. It was our privilege to have you as our speaker in our keynote fireside chat session. Your candid insight on journalism’s advocacy, viral disinformation, women’s empowerment and holding on to ideals are certainly insightful and inspiring at the Summit. We hope you enjoyed the session as much as we did."

Mediacorp – March 8, 2021

"Maria was absolutely terrific. I have received messages of praise for her from viewers around the world who are sharing the program. I personally believe every citizen of the world should hear what Maria said."

Susan Kreifels (East-West Center)

"Maria’s interview was my personal favorite during the festival. We have received great feedback about it. She gave us a good range of both very specific examples when answering questions, and context by connecting those to the bigger, global picture, esp on freedom of the press as it relates to our predominantly American audience. "

Katie Cassetta, Program Manager, Public Programs (Aspen Ideas Festival)

"We've never experienced something more meaningful, raw, thought-provoking as the session with Maria Ressa. She is a very rare combination of grit, passion, purpose, charm, and conviction. She is also a gentle force to reckon with, and is not only a delight to speak to, but expects to be challenged in a conversation. Only someone that open, intelligent, considered, and enlightened can do that. I would bring Maria in again in a heartbeat."

Lou DelaPena (CEO, Publicis Communications)

"We had to get up in the middle of the night (local time in The Netherlands: 03:00 AM) but it was definitely worth it. Throughout the call, it became very apparent that a lot of Ressa's actions are infused with a level of integrity that I think few of us could hope to match! Ressa mentioned that she was at peace with what could happen (concerning the prison sentence she might have to serve) and that she had been able to embrace her fear some time ago. Asked about what kept her going and where her courage came from, the answer was unexpectedly pragmatic: If you know why you do what you do, the right choices become immediately apparent. This concept of knowing your why became something of a running theme during the talk. Ressa feels that as long as you know who you are and what your goals are in life, you should be able to discern exactly what would be the right choice for you in any given situation. It helps to strengthen your integrity, but also to deal with your fear and insecurity. It really speaks to her person and character, as well as her level of insight, that she is still able to be optimistic and hopeful during these dark personal times. It gave me a lot of inspiration for the future."

Sebastian Groothuis (Province of Zeeland (A virtual presentation))

"Maria Ressa was truly engaging. The talk enlightened me in knowing that the fight of truth and facts in journalism is diverse and unique in different political landscapes. Ms. Ressa was able to draw similarities and differences with current governments in several countries. She showed how to use hope, courage, and action in tackling the truth. Her revolutionary ideas coupled with literature references give a fresh perspective such as smashing the idea of conventional happiness in finding the truth. "

Jose Alfonso C. Madroño (TEDxUPManila)

"Her soul has been refined to lean the facts, and her mind has been cultivated to become a journalist. From the focusing, ageless face and deep black shining eyes, you can feel the erupting energy inside her tiny body even from the screen. The energy can melt down fear and hesitating when it ignites the shadow of the world."

Eve Chiu (The Foundation for Excellent Journalism)

"Maria was a delight to work with and a stand-out speaker at the conference. Her speaking style is engaging and her story is compelling - and frightening. Thank goodness she injects humor from time to time! Our survey results are not all in yet, but I know from verbal feedback that she was a crowd favorite"

(Camden Conference)

"Your keynote created goose bumps – that truly was a very special DLD moment. We really need role models like you to create the awareness about what’s going on in our world and there’s still so much work to do to ensure free speech and fight fake news. "

(DLD Munich 2020)