Watch: Following the money in the Philippines is risky business, Forbidden Stories shows

Maria Ressa, founder of the news outlet Rappler, could face six years in prison after being convicted of cyber libel for her reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte. A new video series chronicles the organization’s work.

Philippine news organization Rappler has made a name for itself by reporting on financial crime and corruption — and has become a target of the powerful people it investigates. Rappler’s founder and CEO Maria Ressa was convicted of cyber libel in June 2020 for a story about Filipino businessman Wilfredo Keng’s connections to President Rodrigo Duterte and faces up to six years in prison if her conviction is upheld. She was recently nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to a free and independent press.

This week, the collaborative journalism network Forbidden Stories is presenting a series of videos to amplify Rappler’s work in covering the Duterte regime.

Duterte has been a frequent target of Rappler since he took office in 2016, with stories published about his aggressive war on drugs, his entourage and business connections. He has responded forcefully, barring a Rappler reporter from entering the presidential palace, using an army of social media bots to wage a disinformation campaign and even threatening journalists with assassination, according to the video series.

“Despite the Duterte regime throwing the whole autocratic playbook at them … the journalists at Rappler have never cowed or backed down due to the pressure,” said Phineas Rueckert, an investigative journalist with Forbidden Stories. “They have, in fact, done the opposite: They have continued to go out in the field to report stories that challenge those in power.”

Forbidden Stories is a nonprofit founded to carry on the work of journalists who have been imprisoned or killed. Its first project pursued the work of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a reporter who had been investigating corruption and organized crime in Malta before she was assassinated in 2017. Since then, they have continued investigations into cartel involvement in Mexican politics, corruption in Ghanaian football, and environmental scandals around the world.

“Even if you kill the messenger,” Rueckert said, “you can’t kill the message.”

“The Forbidden Stories of Rappler” was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center. Watch the third installment, “The Money,” which looks at Rappler’s reporting on financial crime and corruption, below:

FinCEN Files

Lessons from award-winning FinCEN Files and Luanda Leaks investigations

Jul 23, 2021
European Parliament and EU flag

EU to propose watchdog to tackle anti-money laundering failures exposed by FinCEN Files

Jul 16, 2021
Protesters in London outside the Chinese Embassy

As global pressure over human rights abuses in Xinjiang picks up, China remains defiant 

Jul 15, 2021

On the decline since Panama Papers, Malta punished for dirty money reputation

Jul 08, 2021
Isabel dos Santos and Sindika Dokolo

Dutch court sides with report calling dos Santos-linked energy deal an ‘act of corruption’

Jun 28, 2021

Facing global pressure, UAE to begin fining violators of new corporate transparency rules

Jun 21, 2021
ICIJ is dedicated to ensuring all reports we publish are accurate. If you believe you have found an inaccuracy let us know.