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Maria Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will visit Sanford on Feb. 8 for a conversation with Sanford Professor Stephen Buckley about the challenges and opportunities for press freedom and democracy in the Philippines and beyond.

Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa

Ressa is the co-founder and CEO of Rappler, a digital media company that has exposed the abuses of power, corruption, and violence under President Rodrigo Duterte's regime. She has also documented the weaponization of social media and its impact on public discourse and human rights.

For her courageous and independent reporting, Ressa has faced relentless harassment, intimidation, and legal threats from the Philippine government. She has been arrested multiple times and convicted of libel in a case widely seen as politically motivated. She faces up to 100 years in prison for the charges against her.

Despite the risks, Ressa has continued to speak out and defend the role of journalism in holding power to account. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her work, including the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. She was also named as one of Time magazine's Persons of the Year in 2018 and one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019.

Ressa is a particularly heroic figure for Filipino-Americans. For Duke student Edrian Liao, this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

"I was thrilled when I heard about her visit. I had just finished reading her book, 'How to Stand Up to a Dictator,' during this winter break. As a Filipino pursuing a major in electrical and computer engineering, it provided me with the perspective I needed to be more wary about emerging technologies and their impact on Philippine society. It also informed me about what democracy means in the world of journalism. I am so excited to meet Maria Ressa, the woman who has held the line to preserve the truth in our country,” said Liao.

image of man smiling outdoors
Stephen Buckley

Buckley, a 1989 Duke graduate in political science, has had a wide-ranging career as a local reporter, foreign correspondent, editor and journalism educator.

“Maria’s courage in the face of legal threats (which are ongoing) and physical intimidation should inspire anyone who is interested in the pursuit of truth and justice. Even in a brief conversation, she exudes an unquenchable passion for finding innovative new tools and tactics to help journalists do their work in ways that strengthen democracy. Beyond all of that, there’s a humility and genuineness about her that make her accessible to people who know little about reporting or fact-checking. She’s like the Mother Teresa of journalism,” said Buckley.

The conversation with Buckley will cover Ressa's personal and professional journey, the state of press freedom and democracy in the Philippines and other countries, and the role of public policy and education in addressing the challenges posed by authoritarianism, misinformation and social media.

This lecture is a part of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy's 50th Anniversary, with generous support from the David. M Rubenstein Distinguished Lecture Series. David M. Rubenstein is a Duke alumnus and former chair of Duke's Board of Trustees. The David M. Rubenstein Distinguished Lecture brings high-profile thought leaders and policymakers to campus each year. Event partners for this lecture include the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, Sanford School of Public Policy, and American Grand Strategy and Duke Centennial. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For questions about this event, please feel free to email

Featured Video

Maria Ressa Talks With Stephen Colbert

Journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa discusses insights about democracy and freedom contained in her latest book, “How to Stand Up to a Dictator,” and outlines some of the perils of living in a world dominated by social media. Video from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.