At stake is the future of one of the few independent journalistic institutions in the Philippines. With coverage about abuses by the police in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs and stories about corrupt deals involving local businessmen, Rappler has come to symbolize fearless journalism in a region where the press is consistently hobbled.
Reporters for Rappler acknowledge these are trying times. Access is an issue 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 draining. But they are still striving to — in the words of Ms. Ressa — “hold the line.”
They know all too well that defying Mr. Duterte comes at a high price. In January 2018, the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it would revoke Rappler’s operating license, saying the site had violated laws on foreign ownership. The action was widely seen by rights activists and other journalists as retaliation for Rappler’s coverage of Mr. Duterte’s brutal drug war.
During a staff meeting shortly 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 referred to in the newsroom as “manangs” — a Filipino term of endearment for an older sister.
Bea Cupin, a senior reporter, said she entered the meeting “kind of confused and a little worried” but left feeling hopeful. “It was clear that our manangs were going to fight, so I think that helped a lot of us, the younger people of Rappler,” said Ms. Cupin. “It was like: ‘OK, maybe we can do this.’”