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Maria Ressa ’86 named 2018 Person of the Year

Photo by Joshua Lim
Photo by Joshua Lim

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, Time Magazine named University alumna Maria Ressa ’86 and other journalists as 2018 Person of the Year.

Time honored the cohort of journalists, collectively named “the Guardians,” who were killed or persecuted in various regions of the world for their dedication to the production of quality journalism and the pursuit of facts during a time of hostility against their profession.

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The group also included Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist for The Washington Post who was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper based in Annapolis, Md., where five staff members were killed in a June shooting; U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, two journalists for Reuters who were incarcerated following their reporting of the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in Myanmar.

Born in the Philippines, Ressa graduated from the University in 1986 with an A.B. in English. She then returned to her native Philippines to study at the University of the Philippines under a Fulbright Scholarship. Ressa has since become a journalist working primarily in Asia, having been CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta. Ressa is the author of 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: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism.”

Ressa has received numerous honors for her work in journalism, including Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Knight International Journalism Award of the International Center for Journalists, the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Ressa co-founded the news organization Rappler in 2011 and became its CEO. She has since become a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and has led efforts to report extensively on his war on drugs as well as the death toll it has caused. In November, the Philippine government moved to charge Ressa and Rappler for tax evasion, a charge that Ressa labeled as a politically motivated attack on journalism.

After a trip to the United States, Ressa was arrested upon her return to the Philippines by the Philippine government, which prepared a warrant for a time that coincided with the date of her return to Manila. Ressa was granted bail by a Philippine court and posted bail of 60,000 pesos (around $1,148).

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