Former Ferris Professor of Journalism Maria Ressa ’86, a champion of the free press in the Philippines and around the world, was jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, Oct. 8.
She shares the prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, the founder and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s most independent newspapers. The Nobel Committee honored Ressa and Muratov for their mutual “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
“Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia,” the committee wrote in its announcement. “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.”
In 2020, Ressa was the University’s Baccalaureate speaker, and in 2018, she was named Time Magazine Person of the Year.
Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize marks the third Nobel for a Princeton affiliate awarded in 2021. Earlier this week, University meteorologist Syukuro Manabe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, and professor David MacMillan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Ressa is the co-founder of Rappler, an investigative news website that has exposed abuses of power by President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte. She has faced repeated political persecution by the Duterte regime. In June 2020, she was convicted of “cyber libel” by a Regional Trial Court in Manila, following a May 2012 article by Rappler that alleged ties between a corrupt judge and a wealthy Filipino-Chinese businessman.
In July 2020, 420 members of the University community took out a full page ad in The Washington Post, calling on the United States government to come to the alumna’s aid and “use its influence” to compel Duterte to drop all charges against her.
“I’m speechless. I’m actually live on another event but my God! Thank you! Oh my gosh. This is... I’m speechless. Thank you so very much,” Ressa told Olav Njølstad, Secretary to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, minutes before the prize was publicly announced.
Ressa is the 18th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in the award’s 126 year history, according to The New York Times.
Her former colleague Director of the Program in Journalism Joe Stephens said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian, “Maria is honestly the bravest woman I know.”
“I would say that this is a tremendous day for Maria, for journalism, and for democracy worldwide,” Stephens said. “She risked her life repeatedly to bring to light corruption and injustice. She’s had a huge impact in the Philippines and beyond. And I think it’s just as important that she continues to inspire and embolden other courageous journalists everywhere.”
As a colleague in the journalism program, “we’re just really honored to call her one of our own.”
“I think she embodies more than anyone I know the University’s motto: Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of humanity,” Stephens added.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also added his congratulations on Twitter, writing, “Congratulations to Toms River High School North and @Princeton alumna @mariaressa on winning the 2021 #NobelPeacePrize for her fearless fight for freedom of expression in her native country, the Philippines!”
Ressa did not immediately respond to request for comment.
This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Marie-Rose Sheinerman is a senior writer who has reported on COVID-19 policy, faculty controversy, sexual harassment allegations, major donors, campus protests, and more. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @rosesheinerman. She previously served as an editor of news and features and now assists with content strategy.