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Rappler CEO becomes first Filipino to win Nobel Prize, highlights importance of journalism

By Jose Oscar Magpusao

Photo Credits: Nobel Prize

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.

The committee chose to award the two "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace."

“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,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

Ressa, now the first Filipino to win the Nobel Peace Prize, has been at the forefront of targeted attacks against her and her media organization after their consistent and critical coverage of the country’s current administration since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, who continues to be a controversial subject throughout the Philippines to this day.

“Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines,” the committee said.

“As a journalist and 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,” the committee added.

The committee also recognized the role of both Ressa and Rappler in documenting the abuse of social media in proliferating fake news, harassing individuals with contrasting opinions and tainting public discourse.

“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,” the committee said.

“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,” the committee added.

“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,” the committee added.

Ressa revealed in a TIME interview that got wind of the news while she was participating in a live panel at DAKILA’s Press in Distress: Will Independent Journalism Survive in SEA? on Friday.

“I went from kind of stunned disbelief to like–when I started to talk about why journalism is important, and what we had gone through, that’s when I teared up,” Ressa said in the interview.

“It comes at this strange time for me and Rappler. January is our 10th anniversary. And this shows me exactly how much the world of news has changed since the time we created Rappler, which was about building communities of action, which was built on social media, with the optimism of this technology that could help jump-start development, the dreams that we had. And it worked. It did work all the way until 2016. And then the nightmare. We saw that nightmare. We were plunged into it first,” she added in the interview

“It just shows the role that journalists play because it goes back to without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. How can you have democracy without that? This is the fabric that holds us together: the shared reality,” she added in the interview.

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