How Does Nobel Peace Prize Winner Maria Ressa Overcome Adversity?
The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Maria Ressa, in recognition of her work to protect freedom of expression.
Ressa, 58, is executive editor and CEO of Rappler, an independent online news outlet that’s critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Ressa shares the accolade with another journalist, Dmitry Muratov, the head of independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
In a statement, the Nobel committee said its choice "is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights."
Ressa, a former Time Person of the Year, told Norwegian TV2 the award came as a shock but gave her and the Rappler team "tremendous energy to continue the fight."
Founded in 2012, Rappler has becoome known for its investigative reporting into President Duterte’s war on drugs, which the International Criminal Court announced it would formally investigate in September.
Currently, the former CNN correspondent is on bail pending an appeal against a 2020 conviction in a cyber-libel case, for which she faces up to six years in prison.
Gen.T spoke to Ressa in May 2020 as part of its virtual event Gen.T Stream. At the time, the journalist was facing more than 100 years in prison on various charges.
During the conversation, Ressa discussed the importance of defining your values, seeing the positive in adversity, and why your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength. Watch the video interview, and read excerpts from the conversation below.
Seeing The Positive In Adversity
“The quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', is what I live by. [It informs everything that I do], whether it's going to the gym, dealing with press freedom issues or running a business. When you run into problems, you have to tackle them in a way that is constructive. It is like going to the gym—you break some muscles, tissues and ligaments in order to create something stronger on top of them. This is how you deal with adversity. Without adversity, you cannot grow.”
Defining Your Values
“It is very easy to say I live by my values. I'm in my late 50s and I do know my values, but how did I get there? You start first by asking yourself why you do what you do. Slowly, you will begin to build your values. And when they are tested, your identity will be defined by how you protect these values and the compromises you are willing to make.”
The Role Of Social Media Platforms Today
“During this pandemic, we’re seeing social media platforms taking down content where they’ve never done before. For the first time, they are taking down posts by leaders of a country because, in this day and age, lies kill. So what we need to do moving forward—and what I hope social media platforms will do as well—is take these same principles and apply them where front-liners like journalists, human rights activists, truth-tellers, and people in general, are under attack by political disinformation.”
Holding Tech Companies Accountable
“The data we put in pulled by machine learning, by artificial intelligence, allows companies to know us far better than we know ourselves. And as we said, this information is sold to the highest bidder. The problem is, even as this is happening, we’re acting like the world is still the same. We’ve acted that this is just the form of how we get news distributed or how we get information. But that’s far from [the reality]. For me, right now is one of those times where the world needs to come together to say, 'hey tech, what are your values?'”
Your Greatest Strength Is Your Greatest Weakness
“For me, I love finding out what makes leaders work. And what I always get when I come out of my interviews with leaders is that your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness, and you need to protect yourself against this. In general, every club, company or country reflects a leader’s weaknesses. If the leader is very good, he or she would put in place people that will protect the organisation from his or her weaknesses.”
Overcoming A Crisis As An Entrepreneur
“Whatever you are doing, you need to always look for the worst-case scenario and prepare for that. And I can tell you that this is the reason why [Rappler] is in a good place during this pandemic. When we faced all the cases that our government filed against us in 2018, our advertising dropped by 50 percent. What do you do when this happens? For us, we looked at everything that we had been doing and began a B2B model using technology and data. This part of the diversification of our revenue stream grew 1,200 percent in the last 12 months. Now we’re only 23 percent dependent on advertising. We’re ready for the future, we’re ready for a pandemic!”
See also: Maria Ressa’s 7 Greatest Quotes on Press Freedom, Integrity and More