Toms River Alum Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Maria Ressa (Photo courtesy Rappler)

  OSLO – Maria Ressa, a former student of High School North, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her journalistic efforts.

  “Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines,” the Nobel Prize Committee said in its announcement. “In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the 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. Ms. Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.”

  Born in Manila, she moved to Toms River early in life. She graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 1986, with a degree in English and certificates in theater and dance. She won a Fulbright scholarship to study politics at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She had spent two decades as a lead investigative reporter in southeast Asia for CNN. She had been included in a collection of journalists noted in Time’s Person of the Year 2018.

  She has taught courses at both universities she graduated from. She has written two books: Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center (2003), and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism. Her upcoming book is called How To Stand Up To A Dictator (2022). It shows how “democracy dies by a thousand cuts” and that a web of social media and fake news is created to spur anger and hate to keep people in power.

  The Nobel committee recorded the phone call when she was told she was chosen.

  “Oh my gosh, I’m speechless,” she said. “Thank you so very much.”

Illustration by Niklas Elmehed, courtesy Nobel Prize Outreach

  She was on the job when she received the call. “I’m live at another event,” she said.

  The Nobel committee explained how safeguarding freedom of expression is one of the foundations for democracy and lasting peace. The award is also being given to Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov for his work as editor-in-chief and co-founder of Novaja Gazeta, an independent newspaper in Russia.

  These two journalists are representative of all journalists who stand up for freedom of expression and criticize abuses of power, they said.

  “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. 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,” they said. “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.”

  “Without media, you cannot have a strong democracy,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.