Journalist Maria Ressa, Targeted by Rodrigo Duterte, Wins Nobel Peace Prize

First Look Institute's Press Freedom Defense Fund has backed Ressa's legal fight against the Philippine government since 2017.

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (C) gives a statement after posting bail at a regional trial court in Manila on February 14, 2019. - Ressa was freed on bail on February 14 following an arrest that sparked international censure and allegations she is being targeted over her news site's criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo by Noel CELIS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Journalist Maria Ressa gives a statement after posting bail at a regional trial court in Manila, Philippines, on Feb. 14, 2019. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Maria Ressa, a courageous journalist in the Philippines who has fought to hold the regime of President Rodrigo Duterte accountable in the face of questionable legal cases aimed at imprisoning her and shutting down her news organization, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The Press Freedom Defense Fund, of which I am the director, has been proud to provide Ressa with financial assistance and help pay her legal bills since 2017.

The Press Freedom Defense Fund, a unit of First Look Institute, of which The Intercept is also a part, began providing financial help to Ressa in the early days of her fight with the Duterte regime, at a time when her fate, and that of her news organization, Rappler, were in doubt. The Press Freedom Defense Fund has continued to provide financial assistance to Ressa ever since.

She shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitri A. Muratov. Both were honored for their work on the front lines of the global fight for press freedom and freedom of expression.


Maria Ressa’s Libel Conviction Is a Blow to Press Freedom

Rappler, the Philippines-based news site that Ressa founded, first earned the enmity of the Duterte regime by exposing the government’s brutal drug war, and Ressa went on to combat disinformation spread by the regime. Duterte and his government targeted Ressa and Rappler with a blizzard of criminal and civil cases, including multiple arrest warrants, designed to overwhelm her and stop her from fighting back. In one frivolous case last year, she was arrested, found guilty of criminal cyber libel, and subjected to travel restrictions. She has fought back in the courts, while still keeping Rappler running.

Ressa said early Friday that the prize was a recognition of how “difficult it is to be a journalist today.”

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