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An open letter in support of Maria Ressa ’86 from her Class of ’86 classmates

<h5>Maria Ressa ’86 visited The Daily Princetonian’s newsroom in 2019.</h5>
<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Maria Ressa ’86 visited The Daily Princetonian’s newsroom in 2019.
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

The following is a guest contribution and reflects the authors views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here.

Dear Princetonians,

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Those of us lucky enough to have seen this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa ’86, in Princeton for Alumni Day came away convinced that the attention on her work must be sustained — especially now, as her country heads into a very contentious presidential election on May 9.

With this letter, some of Maria’s 1986 classmates invite you to join us in taking a very simple step to do that, by subscribing to her news organization, Rappler+.

Though Maria’s very public status has afforded her a significant degree of protection, she remains a target of people whose hold on power is threatened by her work. Maria’s visit to Old Nassau underscored the precariousness of her position: as she explained in the inspiring speech that she gave on Feb. 19 to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award, her trip very nearly didn’t happen.

That’s because every time Maria wants to leave her native Philippines, she must request the permission of not one, but multiple judges presiding over the ever-changing number of court cases filed against her and the news organization she founded, Rappler. Under this regime of legal harassment, Maria cannot travel unless the judges in each and every case grant permission. 

Unwilling to disappoint her fellow Princetonians — or the students at her Toms River North High School she had also promised to visit — Maria appealed the decision of the judge who denied her travel request, and won. She flew all night and, on no sleep, headed straight from the airport to her Toms River alma mater and then to Princeton.

There, many of us got to spend a few hours with her. She remains the same amazingly warm, brilliant, and brave person we all knew as students. However, she clearly expressed her concerns regarding the challenges in the Philippines to her journalism and her well-being. 

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Our conversation underscored the steep cost Maria has paid for a life’s work dedicated to free speech and democracy. The least we can do is match her persistence and resourcefulness with our own. 

The many legal proceedings filed against her by targets of Rappler’s investigations are a clear attempt to choke the news organization with legal bills. To combat this censorship by litigation, we invite you to support the news organization Maria founded.

In honor of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, join us in becoming members (or in renewing your membership) of Rappler+ at either an $8 monthly or $70 annual basis. 

Simply search for Rappler or Rappler Plus in any web browser. On the homepage click the dark blue “Join Rappler+” button on the top right corner to set up your account.

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Once you’ve signed up for your membership, let your friends and followers know what you’ve done and how to do it. Post to social media accounts you have. Let Maria know we’re there for her and encourage others to be part of our movement.

Many thanks, in advance, for your support.

Sincerely,

Eric D. Fethke ’86

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