Rappler's Maria Ressa Wins UNESCO Press Freedom Prize

For her 'unerring fight for freedom of expression'.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

The UN's cultural agency has named Rappler CEO Maria Ressa as the recipient of its annual press freedom prize, recognizing her "unerring fight for freedom of expression". 

Ressa, also a nominee for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, is set to receive the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize that is worth $25,000 (P1.2 million) following the recommendation of an international jury of media professionals.

The award recognizes her work that spans over 30 years—in which she has worked as an investigative reporter for CNN Asia, the head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, and most recently, the founder of social news site Rappler whose reporting has made her a target of online and judicial attacks. 

"Maria Ressa’s unerring fight for freedom of expression is an example for many journalists around the world. Her case is emblematic of global trends that represent a real threat to press freedom, and therefore to democracy,"  jury chair Marilu Mastrogiovanni said in the statement.

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UNESCO said Ressa has been subject to a sustained campaign of gendered online abuse, threats, and harassment where at one point, she received an average of over 90 hateful messages an hour on Facebook. 

Ressa, out on bail after a cyber libel conviction, was recently in court to deny four tax evasion charges filed against her and Rappler Holdings. In less than two years, the Philippine government has filed at least 10 arrest warrants against her, seen by advocates as a direct attack on press freedom. 

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The Unesco award will be presented to her on May 3 in celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2021. 

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