Who is Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa?

Philippine Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa says it is more important than ever to "hold the line" and advocate for press freedom.

Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa.

Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa. Source: AAP

Philippine Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa got accustomed to working against a backdrop of violence early in her career, having cut her journalistic teeth reporting from conflict zones.

But the 58-year-old said even that experience failed to prepare her for the torrent of threats, hatred and abuse she has faced from supporters of her country's authoritarian president since she co-founded investigative news site Rappler in 2011.

"There were so many hate messages ... Ninety hate messages an hour, 90 rape threats per minute," the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines told Reuters in 2017.

"When I was younger I was a war correspondent. That was easier than this."

Currently free on bail as she appeals a six-year prison sentence handed down last year for a libel conviction, Ms Ressa expressed "shock and disbelief" on Friday after sharing the Prize with Russian investigative journalist Dmitry Muratov. 

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"We are caught in a battle for facts," she said. "...I've never lived through anything like that, and I guess there's justice."

The Nobel committee said their award was an endorsement of free speech rights under threat worldwide, and Rappler has been in a legal tussle with the government to have its license, revoked in 2018 for alleged violations of laws on foreign ownership. 

Rappler said it "remains 100% Filipino-owned" and its foreign investors had no say in its operations.

'We hold the line'

A journalist for 35 years, Ms Ressa launched the site after working for CNN as bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta, and then becoming the US broadcaster's lead investigative reporter in Southeast Asia, focusing on regional conflicts including an insurgency in the Southern Philippines.

She has also written two books: Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook.

Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler, addresses a rally of journalists and supporters on 19 January 2018.
Source: AAP

Rappler has grown prominent through investigative reporting, including into mass killings during a police campaign against drugs masterminded by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has labelled the site a "fake news outlet" and a tool of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Since the site was launched, Ms Ressa has had to post bail 10 times to stay out of jail in response to a string of lawsuits accusing her of everything from defamation to tax evasion, and that have stoked international concern about media harassment in a country once seen as a standard-bearer for press freedom in Asia.

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

Mr Duterte's government said it does not target news outlets for their reporting.

But Ms Ressa, convicted of libel and sentenced in June last year over a 2012 article that linked a businessman to illegal activities, says the lawsuits are designed to intimidate media and promote self-censorship.

"We're going through a dark time, a difficult time, but I think that we hold the line," she said on Friday.

"We realise that what we do today is going to determine what our tomorrow is going to be."

Published 9 October 2021 at 10:00pm
Source: Reuters - SBS