Maria Ressa is a journalist of Filipino descent and the founder of a digital media start-up, Rappler. She is one of The Philippines’ most prominent journalists and a vocal advocate for press freedom. On the 8th of October, 2021, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Maria Ressa as a co-winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. She is the first Filipino Nobel Prize Laureate.
Early Life and Education
Ressa was born in 1963 in Manila, Philippines. Her father died when she was one year old, and her mother migrated to the United States, leaving her to spend her first decade with her father’s family. Ressa’s mother later married an Italian American man and returned to The Philippines when Ressa was ten years old to bring her to the United States.
Ressa attended Toms River High School North in New Jersey and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University, where she graduated cum laude. Following her graduation from university, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study political theatre at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Her career started at a government station, and in 1987, she co-founded a Philippine documentary television program, Probe, which ended in 2010. She served as CNN’s bureau chief in Manila until 1995. After this, she worked as CNN’s lead investigative reporter in Asia, running its Jakarta bureau from 1995 to 2005. From 2004, Ressa headed the news division of ABS-CBN while writing for CNN and The Wall Street Journal.
In 2012, along with three other women, Ressa co-founded the online news site, Rappler. Rappler started with a team of 2 journalists as a Facebook page named MovePH but evolved to become a major news portal in the Philippines and one of the first multimedia news websites in the Philippines. On the 13th of February, 2019, Reesa was arrested by Philippine authorities for cyber libel based on claims that Rappler had published a false story on Wilfredo Keng. On the 15th of June, 2020, she was found guilty of cyber libel by a court in Manila, facing between six months and six years in prison, and a fine of four hundred thousand Pesos.
Maria Reesa is a 2021 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy and a fellow at the Initiative on the Digital Economy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also the author of two books centred on terrorism in Southeast Asia – Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Cente (2003) and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 110 Days of Abduction, 10 years of Terrorism (2013).
Awards and Recognition
Maria Ressa has numerous accolades in journalism under her belt. In 2018, she received the Knight International Journalism Award, the Gwen Ifill Journalist Award, and the World Association of Newspapers Golden Pen of Freedom Award for her work with Rappler. In 2019, she was included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world and was named on the BBC’s list of 100 Women. In April 2021, she won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. She has also won an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.
Nobel Peace Prize
Maria Reese was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by Jonas Gahr Støre, the former foreign minister, and leader of the Norwegian Labour Party. On the 8th of October, 2021, she was officially announced as the recipient alongside Dmitry Muratov of the Russian Federation. They were awarded the prize for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.