In an age as ripe with news and media as this one, contemporary journalism has become a symbol of truth’s persistence above the noise. Maria Ressa, Filipino American journalist and recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has become the 18th woman to procure the Peace Prize, making waves in both the world of journalism and in the feminine sphere, as the recipients of the Peace Prize span back 120 years. She has joined the ranks of the seventeen brilliant women before her, including Jane Addams, Mother Theresa, and Malala Yousafzai. Ressa, whose accolades include being named a Time Magazine person of the year (2018) and being a Fullbright scholar, is no stranger to success, nor hard work. The international implications of her work in journalism made Ressa a formidable candidate for the award, particularly her work aimed at the use of social media in spreading harmful and detrimental misinformation on a large scale. Ressa’s victory stands for more than the power of journalism, however––it proves the limitless capability of women across the globe, heralding in what we may hope is a new era of recognition for female excellence.
Maria Ressa began her pursuit of journalism at Princeton University, where she earned a degree in English. Post graduation, Ressa returned to the Philippines during the People Power Revolution, which marked the country’s shift from authoritarian to democratic rule. This set in motion Ressa’s career as a notable journalist, covering topics from the People Power Revolution in the Philippines to the September 11th 2001 attacks in the United States. Her investigative journalism company, Rappler, saw Ressa as the CEO and executive editor, the company’s website booming in popularity and significance as one of Manila’s leading news sources. Rappler, taking after Ressa, boldly publishes controversial news and media despite the negative attention it may draw, in a stark advocation for preservation of freedom of the press. It was through Rappler that Ressa began her investigative crusade in examining social media and the harmful spread of misinformation in relation to human rights and autonomy.
This is the work that brings Ressa to present: she is the first Filipino recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee's official statement commends Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, fellow journalist with whom Ressa shares her prize, for their “...courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia...At the same time, 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 work Ressa undertook in her investigative journalism was a bold stand against an abuse of power, the spreading of critical disinformation, and the use of violence and authoritarianism in her native country. She paid particular notice to the ways in which social media functioned in the manipulation of public discourse, stating in an interview with the Nieman Foundation: “What that did for me is it changed my entire view of the world, through first-hand experience. And isn’t that what journalism is? In the battle for truth, journalism is advocacy — because we will fight for the facts.”
What we as women can take from Ressa and her incredible achievement as the 18th woman to procure the Nobel Peace Prize is, in a word: fearlessness. Ressa is not only a symbol of the true nature of journalism and its core drive, but a beacon of what women are capable of.
Ressa’s impact as an individual has changed the socio-political climate of the Philippines on a massive scale, drawing global attention. To see a woman with such incredible passion for her work and a steadfast adherence to the values that she prioritizes, Ressa becomes a testament to the virtue of fearlessness, particularly and especially in the face of adversity. Standing up for what is right, what she believes in, and tirelessly pursuing her passion have cemented Ressa not only as a brilliant and deserved Peace Prize recipient, but as a role model for women across the globe.