Maria Ressa | How to Stand Up to a Dictator
2022 SFU Vancouver Speaker Series

2022, Democracy, Media + Information

Nobel Peace Prize laureate, SFU Honorary Degree recipient and renowned journalist Maria Ressa on how democracy dies by a thousand cuts.

Renowned investigative journalist Maria Ressa received the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her fearless defense of press freedom and democracy in the Philippines as CEO and co-founder of Rappler, an online news site. For her critical reporting of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s government and policies, she faces multiple lawsuits and potentially over 100 years in prison yet remains resolved in her fight to speak truth to power.

In her book, How to Stand up to a Dictator, Maria Ressa maps out a global network of disinformation from Duterte’s drug wars, to America’s Capitol Hill, to Britain’s Brexit, to Russian cyberwarfare to Silicon Valley and beyond.

“How to Stand Up to a Dictator is the story of how democracy dies by a thousand cuts, and how an invisible atom bomb has exploded online that is killing our freedoms.”

At this SFU Vancouver Speaker Series event, Maria Ressa discussed the threat disinformation campaigns pose to our increasingly polarized democracies in a conversation with Carol Off, former host of 'As it Happens' on CBC Radio One. 

SFU President Joy Johnson briefly took the stage to celebrate Maria Ressa as an SFU Honorary Degree recipient. Andrea Crossan, Executive Editor at the Global Reporting Centre provided closing remarks. 

This SFU Vancouver Speaker Series event was presented in partnership by SFU Vancouver, SFU Public Square, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, the Digital Democracies Institute, Ouano Foundation, the University of British Columbia and the Global Reporting Centre.

SFU Vancouver Speaker Series

The SFU Vancouver Speaker Series brings global experts to a local audience. Launched in 2012, the series builds on SFU’s rich history of community engagement by exploring critical issues to contribute to better understanding among Vancouver’s citizens through an intellectually enriching experience.

Tue, 13 Sep 2022

Online and in-person

SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre
149 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, B.C.

Video & Transcript

Event partners


Maria Ressa 

CEO of Rappler, Journalist, Author, Freedom Advocate and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Maria Ressa is the co-founder and CEO of, an online news organization in the Philippines. Maria’s courage and work on disinformation and 'fake news’ culminated in being awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her "efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace." Her numerous awards include being named Time’s 2018 Person of the Year and listed among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019. She has also been named one of Time's 100 Women of the Year, BBC's 100 Women 2019, and Prospect Magazine's world's top 50 thinkers 2019. 

Energetic and eloquent, Maria advises organizations and corporations on corporate governance, values, and strategy. Her experience as a journalist and an entrepreneur in the digital world makes her a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist.

A journalist for over 35 years, Ressa was CNN’s bureau chief in Manila, before working as CNN’s lead investigative reporter focusing on terrorism in Jakarta. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, an online news platform with an ethos of a small tech start-up, starting with a team of 12 young reporters and developers. Through the power of social media, Rappler has grown into the fourth-largest news website in the Philippines with over 100 journalists. Maria has been arrested on 10 charges related to exposing the Duterte government’s corrupt practices and was convicted of cyber-libel in June. She is out on bail pending her appeal but true to form, Ressa, vows to keep fighting.

More recently, Maria is part of the founding group of The Real Facebook Oversight Board – composed of 25 academics, journalists, and activists that will rival the social media platform’s board.

Maria authored Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook and was featured in the 2020 documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” which profiles her fearless reporting on the abuses of Duterte’s presidency, while also illustrating social media’s capacity to deceive and entrench political power.

Ressa has vowed to keep fighting and to continue Rappler’s journalism.

Carol Off

Former host of 'As It Happens' on CBC Radio

An arts reporter and Ottawa correspondent in the ‘80s. International CBC correspondent in the ‘90s and ‘00s. Award-winning documentarian. Award-winning author. And, was the host of As It Happens from 2006 to 2022.

Carol has somehow packed the work of about four careers into one. As a television reporter, she covered the Middle East, the Balkans, Afghanistan, the United States, the former Soviet Union -- and most other places. She has also covered Canadian military missions around the world, including combat operations in Kandahar after 9/11.

Her work in the Balkans led her to write the best-selling book The Lion, The Fox, and the Eagle: A Story of Generals and Justice in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Since that book came out in 2000, she’s written three more -- including, most recently, All We Leave Behind: A Reporter’s Journey into the Lives of Others, winner of the British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

She’s won a Gemini; two gold medals from the New York Festival of Television; a Gabriel Award; and ACTRA’s John Drainie Award for Distinguished Contribution to Canadian Broadcasting, among other honours.

Further reading

In the news


The SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts is accessible at street level on the Hastings side or via a ramp on the Cordova Street Courtyard side (across from JJ Bean Coffee). There are 2 ramp entry points, one is located against the building, near the entrance to the Woodward’s Westbank Atrium (which houses London Drugs and Nesters) and one is located against the building, beside the alley. Both the Hastings doors and the Cordova Coutryard doors can be operated by accessibility buttons located beside the doorways.'

Closed captioning in English will be available through the livestream of this event. A captioned video recording of the event will be emailed to all registrants after the event.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding this event’s accessibility, feel free to connect with us at If you require ASL or other language interpretation please submit this request no later than 3 weeks in advance.  


  • Public washrooms are available on the B2, 2, 3 and 4 levels. All public washrooms are equipped with wheelchair accessible stalls.
  • A Gender Neutral washroom is available on the B2 level.


Several EasyPark lots are located near Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (click the links below for daily rates and directions for each lot):

Please note that other parking options are available around Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, including street parking and other parking lots.

Bus and skytrain

SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts is accessible by multiple bus routes. The centre is also a walkable distance from the Waterfront and Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain Stations.


Public bike racks are located near the Cordova entrance of Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.


Community guidelines

Our community guidelines are intended to ensure the safety of all guest speakers and event participants, and to foster honest, socially accountable dialogue at our events. Thank you for respecting our community guidelines!

  • Above all, there will be zero tolerance for those who promote violence or discrimination against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, or disability. Anyone who incites harm towards other participants (whether through chat, video, audio or otherwise) will be removed at the discretion of our technical team and moderator.
  • Don’t assume pronouns/gender/knowledge based on someone’s name or appearance. Please refer to people using the usernames and/or pronouns they provide.
  • Take space, make space: share your perspective, and make space for other voices to be heard too. Recognize that we are all here to learn.
  • Practice self-care in whatever way you need to. If you need to get up or take a break, please do so.

Past SFU Vancouver Speaker Series events

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  • The Great Derangement featuring Amitav Ghosh

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  • Gwynne Dyer: The Populist Revolt — Its Causes and Cure

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  • The Future of Learning

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  • This Changes Everything featuring Naomi Klein

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  • The Rules of Revolt featuring Chris Hedges

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  • improv4humans (with The Sunday Service) featuring Matt Besser

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  • Jesse Thorn & His Podcasting Pals (with Graham Clark & Dave Shumka)

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  • Gwynne Dyer - Climate Wars

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About the event partners

Ouano Foundation

Ouano Foundation is by, for and about women of the Global Majority. We are dedicated to the realization of a Universal Declaration of Digital Human Rights with women of the Global Majority at the forefront. While they are the most disproportionately affected and harmed by digital rights abuses, they are also brave enough to imagine new futures. We are focused on giving in ways that challenge the status quo in philanthropy. We operate on a trust-based model: We share decision-making power with the people we support. They are not merely recipients of our fund, they are peers and knowledge holders. They know best how to address the urgent issues their communities face.

UBC's Global Reporting Center

The Global Reporting Centre is a non-profit organization dedicated to highlighting important neglected stories around the world. By globally collaborating with leading reporters and media organizations, they spearhead innovative ways to produce solutions-oriented journalism. The traditional approach to global journalism is competitive. Ours is collaborative. We partner with media outlets and journalists best suited to tell the story, in whatever medium fits best.

But we don’t stop there. We also work with researchers and universities to broaden our understanding of complex issues, and with local sources to ensure that our stories serve the communities we report in—whether that’s through local publications, events or translations.

We know it’s important to be connected with communities, to understand their complexities and perspectives, and to understand the long-term impact of reporting. Although this approach is more complicated, we believe that a diversity of voices, expertise, creativity and skills makes our stories better.

SFU Public Square

SFU Public Square is situated at 312 Main, a centre for social and economic innovation in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We work across all of SFU’s campuses, supporting faculty, students, staff, alumni and diverse communities to convene accessible, innovative and inclusive programming that brings people together to find ways to meaningfully contribute to the issues that affect our lives.

Every year, we collaboratively program dozens of workshops, debates, public conversations, discussion panels and other gatherings. These spaces encourage different perspectives and ways of knowing to collide and influence each other. The experience is transformative, inspiring deeper conversations, igniting networks, building capacity and catalyzing curiosity and concern into advocacy and action.