Why Maria Ressa was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize

Published October 9, 2021, 11:23 AM

by John Legaspi

The 58-year-old journalist makes history as the first Filipino to win a Nobel Prize

On Oct. 8, 2021, Friday, the Philippines celebrated its first-ever Nobel Peace Prize, as Filipina journalist Maria Ressa was given the award together with fellow newsman Dmitry Muratov from Russia.

Maria Ressa (Photo by Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

This prestigious recognition was given to Ressa and Muratov “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” This honor from the Nobel Prize has been long-awaited by the media and journalistic community from around the world, and Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, noted that it is the “right moment to give it today.”

“They have used their journalistic platform to exercise freedom and to fight for the protection of the freedom of expression, and they have also participated in public debate on the importance of this matter for a healthy society,” Reiss-Andersen said in an interview.

“I think the past year and a half with the pandemic has particularly highlighted how important the truth is for society as such to make the right decisions, to fight challenges, but it could have been given us any time,” she continued. “Today is a particular set of situations, in the sense that media is present in our lives, in a way that it has never been to us before, globally. It is present in people’s lives, and media influences us as citizens, influences, politicians, but also manipulates us, disinform us. Media is also used for purposes of propaganda. So this quality journalism that this prize honor is really of great importance to balance out how opinions can be shared, how people should debate, and have different opinions without polarizing the debate, and without starting war and conflict and exposing bigotry.”

In the past year, Ressa’s fight to uncover truths about President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime has been in the spotlight, particularly with the President’s anti-drug campaign. With the help of Rappler, a digital media platform she founded in 2012, the 58-year-old became a “fearless defender of freedom of expression.”

“Sometimes media itself is the problem,” she stressed. “It is very important to show that media also has such a crucial role in society. For, first of all, that disagreement and debate is a natural part of a democratic society, but also to expose what is not true, where governments are hiding facts from us, and facts of war and conflict. Without media, you cannot have a strong democracy, and democracy is the best defense and protection against war and conflict in the world today.”

Maria Ressa now joins 57 other women who have been awarded a Nobel Prize from 1901 to 2020.

Listen to her initial reaction to obtaining the Nobel Peace Prize 2021 below.