Inspiring Thursday: Maria Ressa

It has been all over the news this week: on October 8th, Maria Ressa was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize together with fellow journalist Dmitri A Muratov. Who is she, apart from being one of few women in history to receive the prestigious prize, and what are her main goals and achievements?

With years of experience in investigative reporting, Maria Ressa is one of the most highly regarded journalists in the Philippines. She has also worked as foreign correspondent, bureau chief for CNN, as well as head of the news division of the biggest television news channel in the Philippines, ABS-CBN. A major achievement came in 2012, when Ressa co-founded online news platform Rappler with three fellow female journalists. Rappler started out with a small team of 12 working on its development and reporting, but quickly grew to become the fourth-biggest news website in the country, employing over 100 journalists. One main aim of the online news platform is to seek out and document how fake news is spread. This ties together with keeping a watchful and critical eye on the Duterte regime, which is notorious for spreading fake news and for using controversial methods to maintain its power. 

Being critical of the president has not put Ressa in his good books – while the two had already been crossing paths for years, a real turning point came in 2016, when Duterte was elected. With Rappler sharing news about human rights violations carried out by the Duterte regime, the president and his government began to target the news platform as well as Ressa personally. Rappler has faced many investigations and court cases, calling into question the freedom of the press in the Philippines. This has only made the determination to persevere stronger, with Ressa urging others to keep on fighting for press freedom. 

“To the budding dictators of this world, if you have to abuse your power to make you feel powerful, you’re not powerful – just abusive and small.” – Maria Ressa

It is exactly that determination and persistance that the Nobel committee outlined when justifying their choice of winners. Ressa’s successful efforts to hold those in power accountable by exposing their authoritarianism and use of violence were praised, as well as her ability to be ‘a fearless defender of freedom of expression.’ And all the while, she was receiving misogynistic online hate as well as rape and death threats. However, none of this made her give up her fight. 

In addition to her work with Rappler, Maria Ressa has also published two books and won many awards. For example, she was featured in TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, as part of a piece about journalists from around the world combatting the ‘War on Truth’. Earlier this year, in May, Ressa received the 2021 Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. In a world that is increasingly tainted by misinformation and fake news, the work of investigative journalists is becoming more and more fundamental to maintaining democratic values. Congratulations to Maria Ressa for being such a strong part of this fight, as well as for being the 18th woman to win in the Nobel Peace Prize’s 126 year history. 

Written by WAVE Intern India Stotesbury

Our last Inspiring Thursday: Francisca Van Dunem

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