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Maria Ressa awarded

 Nobel Peace Prize

     Maria Ressa
 
Maria Ressa (Photo: Rappler.com)

Veteran Philippine journalist Maria Ressa will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 for her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee made the announcement on Friday, October 8.

The 2021 prize was awarded jointly to Maria Ressa and Russian journalist, Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov.

“Ms Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia,” the Nobel committee said in a press release following the announcement. “At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

“I am speechless! Thank you so very much!” was Ressa’s immediate response when Olav Njølstad, Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, informed her of the honour in a telephone call.

“This is really for all journalists around the world,” said Ressa the following day. “We do need help on so many fronts – it is so much more difficult and dangerous to be a journalist today.”

Ressa is the first-ever Filipino to win a Nobel prize. She is also just one of 58 women to ever win the award.

“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 also stated. “In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.”

The Nobel Peace Prize, which includes 10 million Swedish krona ($1.43 million, CAD), will be awarded to Ressa and Muratov at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on December 10. There were 329 nominees for the Peace Prize this year, 234 of whom were individuals and 95 were organizations.

Maria’s early life

Maria Ressa was born in Manila on October 2, 1963. Her father died when she was one year old. Her mother subsequently moved to the United States, leaving her two daughters with their father’s family. At the age of 10, Maria and her sister reunited with their mother in the United States and were adopted by their stepfather. Her parents relocated to Toms River, New Jersey. Ressa studied molecular biology and theatre as an undergraduate at Princeton University, where she graduated cum laude with a B.A. degree in English and certificates in theatre and dance in 1986. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study political theatre at the University of the Philippines Diliman where she also taught several journalism courses as a faculty member in the university.

The journalist

Ressa’s first job in media was at PTV 4. She also served as CNN’s bureau chief in Manila from 1987 until 1995. She then ran CNN’s Jakarta bureau from 1995 to 2005. As CNN's lead investigative reporter in Asia, she specialized in investigating terrorist networks. She became an author-in-residence at the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) of Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

From 2004 to 2010, Ressa headed the news division of ABS-CBN while also writing for CNN and The Wall Street Journal.

Ressa established the online news site Rappler in 2012 along with three other female founders and with a small team of 12 journalists and developers. It initially started as a Facebook page named MovePH in August 2011, evolving into a complete website on January 1, 2012. The site became one of the first multimedia news websites in the Philippines and a major news portal in the Philippines, receiving numerous local and international awards.

In 2018, Maria Ressa was named among “The Guardians” and a Person of the Year by Time magazine.

The Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 102 times to 137 Nobel Prize laureates between 1901 and 2021, 109 individuals and 28 organizations. Notable past awardees include, Malala Yousafzai (2014), Barack H. Obama (2009), Al Gore (2007), Jimmy Carter (2002), Nelson Mandela (1993), Mikhail Gorbachev (1990), Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama, 1989), Desmond Tutu (1984), Mother Teresa (1979), Martin Luther King Jr. (1964), Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson (1957), and Albert Schweitzer (1952).

This year, the Nobel Prize committee recognized the importance journalism in society, stating, “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. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.

“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. This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.”

As of press time, it is not yet certain that the Philippine courts will allow Ressa to travel to Oslo to receive the award in person. Maria Ressa has been the target of no less than 10 court cases, seven of which are still active. She has been denied the right to travel outside the country since August 2020, despite a track record of returning to the Philippines 36 times when the courts previously granted her permission to travel. So far, Ressa has been denied travel permission four times, including last December, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a mastectomy operation. Ressa has vowed to fight for her right to travel.

Sources: Nobel Prize.org, Wikipedia.