What you should know about Nobel Peace Prize winner & journalist Maria Ressa

What you should know about Nobel Peace Prize winner & journalist Maria Ressa

Maria-Ressa

Journalist Maria Ressa, from the Philippines, has won the Nobel Peace Prize, recognised by the Norwegian committee for her journalistic work defending press freedom, and holding the Philippines’ government to account.

She won the peace prize along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, awarded “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”. Ressa, co-founder of investigative news website Rappler, said the prize was for “all journalists of the world”, noting how difficult and dangerous it is to be a journalist today.

“Thank you to the Nobel Prize committee, I share it with a Russian journalist. It’s a recognition of the difficulties but also hopefully, of how we’re going to win the battle for truth. The battle for facts. We hold the line,” Ressa said after being informed she had won.

“Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines,” the Nobel committee said, upon awarding the prize to Ressa.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public.”

Who is Maria Ressa?

Maria Ressa is a journalist and co-founder of digital media company, Rappler, in the Philippines, dedicated to investigative journalism. In her role as a journalist and CEO of Rappler, Ressa has fiercely defended freedom of the press. The media publication is one of few in the Philippines to focus critically on Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency and the regime’s controversial and violent “war on drugs”.

The Nobel committee noted the number of deaths related to the government’s anti-drug campaign “is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population”.

The committee also recognised Mara Ressa for her work documenting how social media is being used “to spread fake news, harass opponents, and manipulate public discourse”.

Ressa is a former CNN bureau chief in the Philippines and since co-founding Rappler in 2012, has faced numerous legal cases – which she says are politically motivated – after publishing stories that are critical of the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte. She is currently on bail, pending an appeal against a conviction for libel last year, and faces up to six years’ in prison.

The libel case against Ressa is a devastating blow for press freedom in the Philippines, and comes following numerous attempts to silence Ressa. 

Ressa is the Philippines’ most prominent journalist, and was recognised as one of TIME magazine’s people of the year in 2018.

“This is my 35th year as a journalist, this year, and I know why I do what I do,” she said on a Facebook live on the Rappler Facebook page. “My government forgot that most of my career I spent with CNN which meant my former colleagues are still journalists coping with what we are dealing with globally.”

“It came down to here’s the line, and when it matters, are you going to hold the line? For me, we didn’t even really think about it. It was the only option to take.”

The Nobel Peace Prize said their decision to award Ressa and Muratov is intended to show its support for the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of information. They said these rights are crucial to healthy democracies, and protect against war and conflict.

“Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.”

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