Nobel Peace Prize Winner Maria Ressa Is An Inspiration to Filipinos and the World

We are proud to join Filipino communities around the world in congratulating Philippines-based journalist Maria Ressa on being selected as the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate along with fellow journalist Dmitry Muratov of Russia.

Ressa, CEO, president and co-founder of Rappler (digital news site) is the first Filipino to receive a Nobel Prize. She is a 35-years veteran journalist who is internationally known as a leader in the fight for press freedom. The Nobel committee says it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Ressa and Dmitry in recognition of “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Former Philippine vice president Jejomar Binay said, “Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize is a recognition of the courage of every Filipino journalist.” While Binay is spot on in this remark, Ressa’s selection could be viewed as a larger win for all journalists around the world, particularly at this moment in time.

Her selection comes at a critical time when truth and facts are under assault. It comes at a time when journalists face unprecedented harassment by right-wing populists on social media. And perhaps most importantly, the Committee’s selection of these two journalists in specific is sending a message that while “you both (Ressa and Muratov) are under extreme duress in your countries, the international community stands in solidarity with you for the work you do.”

Why Ressa for Nobel Peace Prize?

Ressa’s prominence as a face of modern media internationally made her a fitting choice for the Nobel. She already had been named Time’s Person of the Year 2018, among journalists combating the “War on Truth.” In 2019, she was included in Time‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Also, if the Committee had decided that bolstering media as the “pressing issue” to highlight at this specific time due to increasing global cynicism of news facts and pressure from leaders who perpetuate this misperception for political gain – Ressa’s current narrative again, makes her a fitting choice.

Make no mistake, the Nobel committee is about entrenching certain values. When Vice President Al Gore was selected, the Nobel Foundation was clearly saying it’s urgent that the world start addressing climate change. The Committee was sending a message that apartheid (racial segregation) is unacceptable when President Nelson Mandela was chosen to become a laureate.

No one knows exactly how the Nobel committee goes about selecting a Nobel laureate each year.  We’re talking about the behind-the-door deliberation process. Specifically on the Nobel Peace Prize selection process —  does the Committee first look at pressing issues globally and zero in on local cases? Then second they find a champion of an issue of interest who has global recognition and does Nobel-worthy work? Or is that order reversed?

Why does that order matter even? Because it could explain why perhaps certain obvious historical figures have not received the Nobel Peace Prize like Mahatma Gandhi. The excuse is that Gandhi had already died before he was nominated. But his work arguably was already Nobel-worthy while he lived. It could be that at the time, the fight for independence from Britain that Gandhi was leading wasn’t global enough an issue.

Issue and personality. For Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the two sort of meld together as one in time. The living, breathing, embodiment of the struggle to report on truth at this moment is Ressa. And arguably the most known hotbed of media suppression is Russia, which is perhaps why Muratov is the co-laureate.

The Nobel committee is concerned with global impact – work that moves humanity forward.  Laureates inspire us to live out our best moral, unselfish selves as Mother Teresa brought attention to extreme poverty. Laureates’ work often shows us how to have unwavering courage when then 17-years old Malala Yousafzai defied the Pakistan Taliban and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education.

Like a great novel or movie with a moral message – but even better because this is real life – the Nobel laureate is that central figure, the heroic giant whose back is against a wall and has the weight of the world on his-her shoulders. It is at this moment when there is no other choice but to fight for what is right.

The death threats and intimidation Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. is said to have intensified his determination to fight harder for civil rights and for a society of racial equality (it’s underreported but Dr. King also emphasized economic equality). Likewise, having been arrested several times and charged with “cyber libel” and tax evasion only fueled Ressa’s resolve.

She explained it this way, “when we came under attack, there wasn’t really any other choice, the phrase we used is ‘hold the line’…on this side you’re good, on this side you’re evil,” said Ressa.

For all this (great personalities and their struggle) to have personal meaning to you and I, who might be thinking our bourgeoise existence is far removed – why should the Nobel matter? It could have something to do with what Alfred Nobel (founder) said in his last will, that recipients of his Nobel would be given to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

His standard for his award has been set at the highest bar. The Nobel Prize is about recognizing great work that mankind benefits – “this” is our connection to laureates, our “birthright as a part of humanity.”  Under the same tent as a President like Woodrow Wilson who founded the League of Nations that eventually would become the United Nations is Maria Ressa, a journalist reporting truth under tense and uncertain conditions.

As Filipinos, as members of the media, as admirers of those who pursue justice, as those of us who value democratic principles — there is a part of us that feel we are also under this same tent as Ressa fighting the good fight, even if it appears to be that we are thousands of miles away.

Ressa’s work ultimately is about extolling principles of democracy and safeguarding it for her fellow countrymen, even if some Filipinos do not see it this way, even if some Filipinos believe Ressa is not deserving of anything.

Going forward, the Nobel Peace Prize will only magnify Ressa’s work tenfold and more, for other journalists around the world to see and emulate. Truth-telling and reporting will continue beyond her lifetime into future generations.

The Nobel Peace Prize will serve as a marker in history that Ressa was among the lead guardians in media during one of its most turbulent periods. Our community can take pride in what our fellow Filipino has accomplished. Thank you Maria Ressa. You are an inspiration to the world.  


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