Maria Ressa: Fearless and fair

Maria Ressa: Fearless and fair

The last time I saw my former boss Maria Ressa, about three years ago in New York, she wasn't worried about being arrested upon her return to the Philippines. Her friends and family had told her to consider staying in America, as she's a dual citizen after growing up in New Jersey. But she thought it was her duty to go back to Manila and continue doing her job as CEO of independent news site Rappler.

She wasn't arrested that time for her role in Rappler updating an old article deemed by a judge to be retroactively libelous. But she was detained in February 2019 over the same charge, and again a month later for allegedly violating a ban on foreign ownership of the media. Maria got out on bail both times, but that wasn't the end of her legal troubles.

In June 2020, she was convicted of cyber-libel, and now faces up to 100 years in prison under a very loose and retroactive interpretation of the law that's been panned as an attack on press freedom.


For years, Maria has been fighting dozens of court cases designed to silence her and Rappler for exposing the truth about President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs and corruption within the administration. She almost always prevails, but it costs her and Rappler energy, time, and money — not to mention personal sacrifice.

The thing is, she does have almost limitless energy. When I worked at Rappler a decade ago, we jokingly referred to Maria as being like the Energizer Bunny in the old TV commercials. No matter how tough a day had been, she'd always be at her tiny desk, chatting with her trusted top editor Glenda Gloria, typing furiously on her laptop, or talking to a source on the phone, and running on her usual diet of pandesal and diet Coke.

She's always smiling. And laughing, especially when she lets her guard down a bit at Rappler parties. But she's also tough as nails.

It takes a lot of guts to defy a dictator wannabe who's ordered his cops and soldiers to kill thousands of people. Especially when he's made it personal. After all, Duterte once claimed Maria was part of a CIA plot to oust him from power. And he still eggs on his supporters on Facebook who threaten to rape and kill her because he's weaponized social media.

More importantly, though, she's fair. Maria and Rappler gave Duterte a chance, even when it seemed a trash-talking mayor from the province didn't have a shot at the top job in Manila. But the relationship soured once the bullet-ridden bodies started piling up on the streets, with Rappler's Patricia Evangelista writing about it all.

Operating in a country long recognized for its press freedom, Rappler is doing the same to the Duterte regime that it did to his predecessor. And that it'll do to the next Philippine administration: hold it to account, and call it out when it fails to deliver or abuses its power.

"I am a cautionary tale for journalists," Maria told Ian Bremmer soon after her conviction on GZERO World. She's also an inspiration — and now a Nobel winner.

The question is now: will Duterte let her travel to Oslo to receive the prize?

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Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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On 30-31 October, the world's top leaders will gather in Rome for this year's G-20 Summit. After the pandemic forced them to meet last year by videoconference, the heads of state will once again be attending in person, allowing for the type of parallel, one-on-one meetings that have proven more productive in the past. Still, many critics of the G-20 have come to see the forum as a talk shop, a place where a lot is said but nothing really happens. Will this year be any different, given the long list of challenges the world faces, from COVID to climate change? We talked with Eurasia Group expert Charles Dunst to set the stage and find out where things are going.

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From overall health and wellness to representation in the global workforce, women and girls have faced serious setbacks over the past 18+ months. They also hold the key to more robust and inclusive growth in the months and years ahead: McKinsey & Company estimates that centering recovery efforts on women could contribute $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

On October 28th at 12pm ET, as part of our "Measuring What Matters" series, GZERO Media and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will look beyond traditional indicators of economic recovery to examine COVID-19's impact on girls and women, specifically in the areas of health and employment.

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Will Biden finally be able to pass his spending package? For months, the White House and Democrats in Congress have been locked in a stalemate over the two infrastructure bills that form the bedrock of Biden's policy agenda. But is the wrangling drawing to a close? It certainly doesn't look like it. On Wednesday, the White House unveiled a billionaire tax, which would take effect for the 2022 tax year in order to help pay for the ambitious proposals currently making their way through Congress. If it passes, the bill will affect around 700 US taxpayers with more than $1 billion in assets, as well as those who make $100 million or more in income for three years in a row. To date, two moderate Democratic senators – Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – have opposed conventional tax hike increases, but will they support this more limited scheme that will help rescue Biden's policy agenda? Manchin appears to be skeptical of the proposal, and it's unclear what Sinema's game plan is. Still, chasms remain on parts of the spending package itself, including healthcare coverage, and how to pay for it all.

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5: The price of a fresh baguette in France could soon rise by as much as 5 centimes (about 6 cents), as a global wheat shortage makes the staple of French cuisine (and identity) more expensive. That might not sound like much, but considering that France's famed "Bread Observatory" estimates that the French eat 10 billion baguettes every year, it adds up. Revolutions have started over less!

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Six months ago, China's tech giants were champions of the state, working with the government to conquer US Big Tech. But then Xi Jinping started cracking down, and a trillion dollars in their market value is gone. Huh? For Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic and former editor-in-chief of WIRED, it makes sense for Xi to go after cryptocurrencies to ensure they don't replace the yuan. But going after national tech champions, he says, could be fool's errand because it's inevitable they'll someday become more powerful than the state itself.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

Australia's underwhelming climate pledge: After waffling on whether he'd attend COP26, Prime Minister Scott Morrison now says Australia will achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But there's a catch: the scheme would not involve overhauling the country's lucrative fossil fuel sector. The PM also stopped short of making ambitious targets by 2030, one of the key objectives of COP26. Australia is one of the world's top coal-producing countries and has one of the biggest carbon footprints per capita, but its government has long dragged its feet on climate change — mainly because fossil fuel exports are a boon for the economy. "We won't be lectured by others who do not understand Australia," Morrison said in response to criticism about his government's weaker-than-hoped-for pledges. While the US has pledged to halve its carbon output by 2030, and the EU says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, Australia is aiming for a mere 26 percent cut on 2005 emissions in that period.

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